Scripture: Lectionary Jan 17, #312. I Sam. 16:1-13. Psalm 89:20-21. 22.27-28 Mark 2:23-28
Spiritual Directors are very helpful in developing our spiritual lives. A good and holy spiritual director gives the formula or principle to help us when we face things we are troubled about. Our consciences are sometimes mixed with scruples or with rationalizations. We need spiritual direction in such cases. Jesus shows us that reasonableness is a part of a healthy solution to some of our problems. The holy director said, “Use your reason and you will find out that this is often the suggestion given to us by the sound voice of Scripture, Tradition, and the Teachings of the Church.”
Jesus defends his disciples in the act of eating grains of wheat they have plucked in the fields to assuage their hunger. He uses an example from David’s life which Jesus learned about in his own education in the Tanach (his Bible or the Hebrew Scriptures). “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” We know how important the Sabbath observances are, yet there are exceptions that follow the law of reason. Jesus teaches that he as the Son of Man (a human being) is Lord of the Sabbath! Even some of our most sacred events are sometimes not able to be observed nor the rules surrounding them. People often are not able during a vacation to get to Mass. Their reason should tell them there is nothing wrong in this. There are exceptions. Or one is not able to observe the fast of one hour before the Eucharist because of illness or even sleeplessness. The holy director would say, “Use your reason and solve the problem yourself.” Paul VI was one of the first popes to elucidate this principle through some words about forming our consciences with reason enlightened by our faith. Jesus wants us to be adults in our journey with him. So does St. Paul who wants us to get beyond feeding ourselves just with milk in the journey with Jesus.
Even the Romans were on to something similar to what Jesus was saying in what they learned from Juvenal “mens sana in corpora sano” or to train the body as well as the mind. This is a principle of reason that leads to wholesomeness. The rabbis also are very reasonable when it comes to the rules of fasting. They base their argumentation on Isaiah 58 and in interpreting Jonah, “Brethren, it is not written of the men of Nineveh that God saw their sackcloth and their fasting, but that God saw their works and they turned away from their evil ways (Jonah 3:10); and the prophet Joel says (2:13) ‘Rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Spiritual abstention is regarded not as an end in itself but as a means to spiritual affliction and self-abasement. This finds eloquent expression in the portrayal of the true fast in Isaiah 58, which was adopted not only as the prophetic reading for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) , but was probably read on the occasion of each public fast.” (The Enc. Of the Jewish Religion, p. 142).
We are commenting on the third of five controversies of Jesus with scribes, Pharisees, and others. Amen.