Today’s Gospel: Matthew 12:1-8
Do you ever find yourself shaking your head in disbelief at the Pharisees? For such learned men,they seemed pretty dense. Jesus and his disciples were hungry and they ate heads of grain in a field; somehow the Pharisees took offense at that and accused them of doing something unlawful on the Sabbath. Were Jesus and the disciples supposed to go hungry just because it was the Sabbath?
I admit that I am naturally repelled by legalism. It speaks of rigid adherence to things that oftentimes have lost their meaning. I am a child of pre-Vatican II, raised on the rules of the church. I never was good at following rules and found myself probing my faith to get to the deeper meaning. But even when we do that, we can still be hung up on the rules.
My husband is a deacon in the Eastern Catholic Church (Melkite). His primary duty is to assist his priest in the celebration of The Divine Liturgy. The Divine Liturgy is exquisite in its beauty and requires rigorous study of the rubrics (rules) to celebrate it properly. The learning curve was steep. His performance anxiety was high that first year but eventually the rubrics became a part of him. Along the way however, he picked up the habit of evaluating his performance and nitpicking at mistakes he had made.
It is then that I would gently remind him that a few mistakes on his part do not undo the beauty and mystery of the liturgy. No one in the congregation notices anyway!
This is what Jesus is reminding us of today: to look at the bigger picture. We can get so buried in the rules that we miss the point. The Pharisees were all about legalism while Jesus was about common sense and most of all, mercy. He and the disciples were hungry so they ate. He healed on the Sabbath because those who were sick were in need of healing.
The motive of the Pharisees was to be right. Jesus’ motive was to be merciful. What is our motive in practicing our faith?
Lord, help me to see my faith beyond rules and regulations. Teach me to make mercy my maingoal rather than being correct. Amen.
Copyright 2014 Susan Bailey