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Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” Matthew 16:24–26
Just before Jesus gave this teaching, He predicted to the Twelve for the first time that He would “suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” In fear, Peter objected, saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” To Peter’s statement, Jesus responds firmly, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” What a difficult thing that must have been to hear from Jesus!
Jesus was ready and willing to suffer and die for the salvation of the world. He knew that by dying He would transform death itself into the very means of eternal salvation. He knew that laying down His life in this way was the greatest act of love He could offer; therefore, Jesus didn’t hesitate at all. He was ready and willing to give His human life so that we could live.
To understand this we must realize three things. First, by assuming our human nature, Jesus forged a bond between God and humanity. Second, by sharing in our death He made it possible for us to cling to Him in our own death. Third, by rising from the dead, Jesus made it possible for those who cling to Him in death to also share in His Resurrection. Though we will only fully understand this great mystery of redemption in Heaven, we must strive to comprehend it as best we can here on earth.
Peter did not understand this, at least not at that moment when Jesus first revealed it. Peter allowed fear to tempt him to interfere in Jesus’ glorious act of salvation. This is why Jesus rebuked him so strongly. It was a loving rebuke meant to free Peter from his fear and to give him courage to embrace the Sacrifice Jesus was about to offer.
The passage quoted above follows Peter’s rebuke and is Jesus’ instruction on how we will all share in His gift of salvation. In order to rise with Christ, we must freely die with Him. We must deny ourselves, meaning all selfishness and sin, and imitate Jesus’ heroic sacrificial gift of His life. The result will be that we are united to Him in His death and in His Resurrection to new life.
Fear can paralyze us. But fear, in this case, is a response that is based on an error. We embrace that error when we act out of selfishness. Each of us will die. That’s a fact. The question is how we die. We can either die selfishly, seeing our earthly life as the center of all. Or we can die in a self-giving way with our Lord by uniting ourselves to His act of sacrificial love. We do this by turning our eyes away from ourselves and seeking out every way that we can imitate Jesus’ death. We must strive to serve, live sacrificially, put God’s will first, unite ourselves to Christ, and make love for our neighbor our mission in life. This is what Jesus did. When we do this, we take up our cross, follow Him, die with Him, and are prepared to share in His Resurrection. This is the only way to eternal life.
Reflect, today, upon the words “Take up your cross and follow Me.” This is Jesus’ most sacred instruction to us all on how we should live and how we will share in His gift of eternal life. What cross in your life are you fearful of? What act of sacrifice do you avoid? True love hurts in the sense that it is always selfless. We must die to ourselves. Reflect upon any way that you fail to do this, and allow Jesus’ rebuke of Peter to also rebuke you so that you will be freed from the fear of this holy sacrificial love that will unite you to our Lord.
My sacrificial Lord, You did not fear laying down Your sacred life for us all. You embraced Your mission of love by entering into death itself so that we could die with You and thus share in Your Resurrection. Please free me from all fear of the crosses in my life and help me to fully embrace a life of sacrificial love. Jesus, I trust in You.
Rejecting False Accusations
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands. Mark 7:1–2
What a foolish thing for these Pharisees and scribes to be concerned about! They were in the presence of the Son of God, the Savior of the World, a man of perfect virtue and pure goodness, and all they could do was to observe that some of Jesus’ disciples failed to follow the scrupulous teaching on how they should wash their hands before a meal. The reason for this was their pride. These teachers of Israel had devised a large body of detailed, unwritten, human laws that they treated with the same binding force as the Law of Moses that they received from God. But the scribes’ and Pharisees’ human traditions were not from God; they were a body of regulations flowing from their own self-righteous need to act as interpreters of the Law. Therefore, whenever someone failed to follow the traditions the Pharisees and scribes taught as binding, they took it personally and reacted with judgment.
One lesson we can learn from these religious leaders is that we should never take things personally. Allowing ourselves to become personally offended at anything at all is, in fact, an act of our own pride. We do need to have sorrow for the sin we see, but that is different than allowing ourselves to become personally offended. For example, even if we were to teach the very Law of God and someone rejects that teaching, our response must be sorrow for them as we reject their error.
Jesus went on to respond to the Pharisees and scribes by quoting to them the Prophet Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts” (See Isaiah 29:13). What’s interesting is that Jesus didn’t really engage them in conversation about this, defending Himself or His disciples in their eyes. Instead, He rebuked the Pharisees and scribes in a general way so as to dismiss their criticism as false, and then turned away from them and addressed the crowds.
We will all experience unjust condemnation at times. If we are in the wrong, then we must receive the condemnation as if it were from God and repent. But if the condemnation flows from someone’s wounded pride or error, then Jesus set the example on how we ought to respond. The best response is to reject their error and then refuse to become engaged in the conversation further. Too often when we are criticized unjustly, we also take it personally. We tend to fight back and justify ourselves, trying to prove that the other person is wrong. But when we do that, we are most likely acting out of our own wounded pride. This will result in angry sulking feelings and the experience of oppression that the evil one inflicts upon us. Jesus’ model is to reject the lie and then refuse to engage it further. The reason for this is that the unjust condemnation is actually the seed of the evil one. The person delivering it is only the instrument. So we rebuke the lie of the evil one and refuse to get into a personal battle with the person delivering the lie. Doing so brings freedom from oppression and allows our hearts to remain at peace, no matter what we endure.
Reflect, today, upon any ways that you have taken some conversation personally, allowing it to oppress you with anger, becoming defensive or argumentative. Know that whenever that happens, this is an attack from the evil one as he seeks to oppress you. Do not accept that abuse. The guide for each of us is the peace and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. Even the greatest martyrs remained at peace and felt joy in the midst of their persecution. Reflect upon any ways that you have allowed the evil one to agitate you and leave you upset with your wounded pride. Do not fall into his trap. Hold on to the truth and remain at peace, and that will be all the defense you need to make.
My persecuted Lord, You endured much criticism in life, but You never allowed it to steal Your peace. You remained perfectly strong, rejecting the lies and turning from them. Please give me the grace I need to always turn away from the lies of the evil one and to listen only to Your clear and gentle voice. Jesus, I trust in You.
Motivations of Love
Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12–14
This Gospel passage goes to the heart of our motivations in life. Because of our fallen human nature, we can easily do what we do for selfish reasons. We want payment for our labors and acknowledgement for our acts of kindness. We want to get ahead in life and try to elevate ourselves over others. But Jesus makes it clear that our motivation for everything we do must only be the glory of God and the love of others.
The poor, crippled, lame and blind in this passage refer to those who are in need of our love. This certainly will include friends and family. When we encounter those in need, we must offer our love, not because we get something out of it, but because it is the right thing to do. The payment we receive in this case comes directly and exclusively from God. It’s not a payment of societal recognition or praise. It’s not a payment of material things. It’s not a payment that helps us get ahead in life. It’s a payment of grace that makes us holy. This is the only motivation we should have in life—a motivation for holiness by glorifying God through our love of Him and others.
Think about your motivations in life. Why do you do what you do every day? Clearly we all have certain responsibilities that must be met, such as earning a living, caring for the home and family, strengthening our relationships, etc. But why do you do these things? What is the source of your motivation? Is your motivation based on pure love?
When our love is pure, we are motivated to act in one way or another because we see that it is our holy duty toward God or an act that will benefit another. For example, a loving and holy parent will work hard to earn a living not because they want to get rich so as to indulge in the things of this world, but because they love and care for their family and want to provide for their material needs. Or a friend will seek to be there and listen to another friend not because it is advantageous for them, but because they love their friend and want to provide a listening ear when they need it. True love always looks at the good of the other, looking for the ways they are spiritually poor, crippled, lame and blind so that they can help them in accord with God’s will. True love always seeks to fill a void with what is needed at that moment.
The good news for us is that when our motivations are pure and selfless, looking only to glorify God and care for others, God will lavish upon us eternal rewards that begin now. We will grow rich in virtue and rich in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We will obtain joy, peace, strength, courage, love, goodness and so much more. These good things are the true riches in life and can only be bestowed by God upon a soul whose motivations in life are pure, selfless, sacrificial and merciful.
Reflect, today, upon what motivates you each and every day. Do you think more about yourself when acting or more about God and others? Hopefully you will discover within your motivation a burning desire to serve others and glorify God in everything you do. But where you do see selfishness, know that this motivation can never fulfill you. Humble yourself by turning your attention to the love of God and the needs of others, and make serving them your exclusive mission. Doing so will result in God lavishing upon you more than you could ever imagine.
My merciful Lord, You came to earth to serve, not to be served, and to give Your life to others in an act of the most pure and holy love. I open myself to that gift of Your divine love and pray that, as I receive Your love, I may love You and others in the same selfless way. Jesus, I trust in You.
An Emotional Reaction to Jesus
Monday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But he passed through the midst of them and went away. Luke 4:28–30
It’s hard to believe that those people who knew Jesus, those from the town in which He had been raised, reacted in such a severe way to our Lord. Jesus had just entered the Synagogue and read from the Prophet Isaiah who stated that “the Spirit of the Lord” was upon him and that he had come to “proclaim liberty to captives.” Jesus’ mission was clear. He was the Messiah, sent from the Father, in fulfillment of the teachings of the prophets, and yet Jesus was rejected to the point that the people drove Him out of the town and tried to throw Him off a cliff near the town to kill Him. Again, it’s hard to comprehend the extreme emotions that people experienced in regard to Jesus. Some came to love Jesus with the deepest passion, others were outraged at Him and sought His life.
One thing that these extreme emotions experienced by many should tell us is that we cannot remain indifferent to Jesus when we truly listen to His words. Indifference comes when Jesus is ignored. But when He is heard and understood, it is clear that His message demands a response. If we do not fully accept Him as we listen to His message, then we will be tempted to reject Him and all that He speaks.
Jesus wants to do the same with us. He wants a response from us. First, He wants us to hear Him, to understand the radical nature of His message, and then to make a choice. He wants us to follow Him with passion and zeal, to believe in everything He teaches, and to radically change our lives as a result. And if we will not change, then Jesus’ words will challenge us and evoke a response.
One example of this that is common today is the strong response that sometimes comes from a teenager or young adult when a loving parent confronts them when they begin to go astray. When confronted in love and with the truth, emotion is often evoked and stirred up. But that is not always bad. The temptation on the part of the parent is to back off and compromise. But that’s not what Jesus did with the townspeople. He spoke the truth in love and accepted their response. So it is with those in our lives. At times we must speak the hard but loving truth others need to hear even if we know they will lash out. In the end, challenging them with compassion and truth may ultimately win them over. We do not know what ultimately happened to those townspeople who tried to kill Jesus that day out of anger, but it is entirely possible that the extreme emotion they experienced eventually led them to the truth.
Reflect, today, upon the courage and love Jesus had as He directly confronted and challenged His own townspeople for their lack of faith. Try to understand that Jesus’ challenge of them was a mercy He offered them to move them from indifference. In your life, are there ways in which you need to be challenged? Are there things you have reacted strongly to and even with a form of rage? Try to see yourself as one of those townspeople who became enraged by our Lord. Be open to any way that you have reacted negatively to that which Jesus has spoken to you. Consider, also, any ways that Jesus may want to use you to speak His clear message of love to another, even if you know it may not immediately be received. Pray for courage, compassion, clarity and love so that you will be able to imitate Jesus as He sought to move those of His own hometown out of the indifference they were experiencing.
My challenging Lord, You desire that all Your children turn to You with their whole heart. Your chastisements are acts of mercy meant to move us out of indifference. Please speak to me the truths that I need to hear this day and use me to share Your holy word with others, especially those of my own family. Jesus, I trust in You.
Authority and Power
Tuesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region. Luke 4:36–37
Jesus had just encountered the wrath of many in His hometown of Nazareth, so He left there and traveled about 30 miles to Capernaum, a town just north of the Sea of Galilee. This was to become His new home during His public ministry. The reaction He received in Capernaum was much different than that which He received in Nazareth. As He taught in the Synagogue in Capernaum, a man with a demon came to Him, Jesus rebuked the demon and cast it out, and the people were amazed. Word spread about Jesus quickly. After this, Jesus performed many other miracles, and the people continued to be in awe of Him.
What was it that impressed the people of Capernaum? In part it was the “authority and power” with which Jesus spoke and acted. But it was not only this, since Jesus had done so also in Nazareth where the people failed to believe in Him. In Capernaum it wasn’t that Jesus was different, it seems that the people were different. Jesus won over many hearts in Capernaum because the people were open to the gift of faith. In fact, when Jesus was preparing to leave from Capernaum, the people begged Him to stay. Though eventually Jesus would also encounter resistance from the people there, their initial reaction was one of faith.
Do you want Jesus to act powerfully in your life? Do you want Him to act upon you with authority and power? Many people, from time to time, can feel as though their lives are somewhat out of control. They experience weakness, confusion, a lack of direction and the like. For that reason, true spiritual “authority and power” is very welcome. What sort of authority and power do you need Jesus to exert over your life today?
Think of a small child who is frightened. When this happens, the child turns to a loving parent for comfort and security. The embrace of a parent immediately helps to dispel the fear and worry of the child. So it is with us. We must see Jesus as the source of calm in our lives. He is the only one Who is capable of ordering our lives, freeing us from the attacks of the evil one, bringing peace and calm to our disordered emotions and clarity to our questions and doubts. But this will only be possible if we are open. His power never changes, but it can only enter our lives when we change and when we recognize our weakness and our need for Him to take control.
Reflect, today, upon the infinite spiritual authority and power of our Lord. It is a power beyond anything else we could imagine. He wants to exercise this authority in your life out of love. What is hindering Him from taking greater control of your life? What sin or temptation does Jesus want to rebuke in your life? From what oppression does He want to set you free? Reflect upon yourself being a member of the town of Capernaum who fully welcomes Jesus, is amazed at Him and desires Him in your life. His working in your life depends upon you and your response to Him. Call on Him and let Him in.
My most powerful Lord, You and You alone are able to take authority over my life and bring order and peace. Please remove any doubt and stubbornness from my heart so that I can open myself to You and Your grace. Take authority of my life, dear Lord, and lead me into Your most holy will. Jesus, I trust in You.
Laying the Foundation
Wednesday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them. Luke 4:38–39
If you wanted to share some important message with a group of people, you would first need to get their attention. This could be done through a variety of means, such as through a charismatic personality, a powerfully moving story, a heroic act of virtue, or anything else that leaves people impressed or even amazed. Once you have their complete attention, you can share the message you want to share. This is what Jesus did in today’s Gospel.
Jesus began His public ministry in Nazareth, but the people of his hometown rejected Him from their Synagogue. Therefore, He immediately traveled some 20 miles on foot to Capernaum, a town just north of the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus would spend much of His time. In this first visit to Capernaum, at the beginning of His public ministry, Jesus taught in their Synagogue, cast out a demon, and then went to the home of Simon (who eventually was given the name Peter) to perform His first recorded physical healing in Luke’s Gospel. He cured Simon’s mother-in-law, who suffered from a severe fever. Then, later that evening, many people brought to Jesus the sick and possessed, and Jesus “Laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” He certainly got their attention. And the next morning, as Jesus was preparing to leave Capernaum after this first visit during His public ministry, the people tried to convince Jesus to stay. However, Jesus said to them, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.”
Has Jesus ever gotten your complete attention? Though you most likely have never witnessed a miraculous healing first hand or seen a demon being cast out of one who was possessed, Jesus still wants your full attention. He wants you to be so amazed at Him and so impressed by Him that you find yourself seeking Him out so as to be more fully fed by His divine teaching.
Some people give their full attention to our Lord after a powerful experience on a retreat. Others are struck by a powerful sermon. And there will be countless other ways by which Jesus has gotten your attention so as to fill you with a desire to listen to Him and be with Him. Such experiences lay a wonderful foundation by which we are continually invited to turn to our Lord. If this is not an experience to which you can relate, then ask yourself the question “Why?” Why haven’t you been amazed by our Lord to the point that you fervently seek Him out so as to listen to His nourishing Word?
Reflect, today, upon this initial way by which our Lord got the attention of the people of Capernaum. Though some would eventually turn from Him, many did become faithful followers on account of these personal experiences. Reflect upon any way that you have encountered our Lord powerfully in the past. Have you allowed that experience to become an ongoing motivation for you to seek Him out? And if you cannot point to any such experience, beg our Lord to give you an interior drive to desire more of Him and to be fed by His holy Word and divine presence.
My miraculous Lord, I know that You desire my complete attention in life. And I know that I am often distracted by many things that compete with You. Give me the grace I need to become so amazed by You and by Your action in my life that I fervently seek You out so as to be continually nourished by Your holy Word and divine presence in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
A Personal Encounter
Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Luke 5:8
Consider carefully this very moving action of Simon Peter. Jesus had just begun His public ministry, healing Simon’s mother-in-law as one of His first miracles. After that, Simon witnessed Jesus heal many other sick people and cast out many demons. And then, shortly after these initial miracles, Jesus got into the boat of Simon, directed him to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” As soon as Simon obeyed, he caught so many fish that they needed a second boat to come and help them. The response of Simon to this additional miracle is recorded above.
Three things take place in this passage. First, “Simon Peter saw this…” And though he saw this, literally with his eyes, we should see his “seeing” as something even deeper. Simon Peter saw not just the best day of fishing he had ever had. He saw God’s grace at work through Jesus and was deeply moved interiorly by what he saw. Jesus used that which was one of the most central parts of Simon Peter’s life (fishing) to manifest His divine power. In a sense, Jesus brought this lesson home to Simon, using fishing as the source of His lesson.
Secondly, Simon’s response was perfect. By encountering this divine miracle, Simon immediately was aware of his sin. Though we do not know what Simon’s sin was, it is clear that this encounter with our Lord led him to immediately call to mind whatever he was guilty of. Perhaps he had struggled with some ongoing habitual sin for years, or perhaps he had done something of a grave nature that still haunted him. But all we know is that Simon’s encounter with this very powerful and personal miracle moved him to an awareness of his sin.
Thirdly, Simon falls at the knees of Jesus and tells the Lord to depart from him. And though Jesus’ mercy is so great that Jesus would never depart from him, Simon is not only aware of the fact that he is unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence, but he also manifests this conviction through his humble action of repentance.
What does Jesus do? He said, “Do not be afraid…” And when these new disciples arrived at shore, “they left everything and followed him.”
Each one of us must encounter our Lord in this same way. We must see Jesus. We must be deeply attentive to Him. We must recognize His presence, hear His voice and see His action in our life. If this is done well and through faith, then our personal encounter with our Lord will shine light on the sin we need to repent of. This is not so that we remain in guilt and shame; rather, it is so that we can also humble ourselves before Jesus and acknowledge we are not worthy of Him. When this humble admission is done well, we can be assured that Jesus will also say to us, “Do not be afraid.” His consoling words to us must then be responded to with the same choice made by Simon and the others. We must be ready and willing to leave everything behind so as to follow Him.
Reflect, today, upon this image of Simon Peter on his knees before Jesus. See his humility and honesty. See his sincerity and interior awareness. And see his understanding of the divine power of Jesus before him. Pray that you, too, will see our Lord, experience your sin, humble yourself before Him and hear Him call you to radically and completely follow after Him wherever He leads.
My consoling Lord, You manifested Your almighty power to Simon Peter through his ordinary daily activity. You allowed him to see Your divine power at work. Help me to see You at work in my life also, dear Lord. And as I see You, help me to humble myself before You, acknowledging my unworthiness. As I do, I pray that I also hear You say to me “Do not be afraid,” so that I can get up and follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.
Courage to Change
Friday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” Luke 5:37–39
This short parable comes at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He just called Levi, the tax collector, to become one of His disciples, and then Levi invited Jesus to dine at his home with other tax collectors and sinners. When the scribes and Pharisees saw this, they objected and challenged our Lord. In response, Jesus tells this parable as a way of explaining that He came to call everyone to change and to experience a new transformation of their life.
The “new wine” spoken of in this parable is the grace poured forth from the Cross. Remember that blood and water sprung forth from His side as He hung upon the Cross. This has been symbolically understood as the grace and mercy given to us from the Cross, which is transmitted today through the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Baptism transforms us into a new creation, and, as a new creation in Christ, we must desire the new wine of the Most Holy Eucharist so as to be daily transformed by our Lord.
Many of the Church Fathers point out that the “old wine” that many prefer is a reference to those who wanted to continue living according to the old law. This is especially true of the scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking this parable. Jesus was bringing them a new teaching and preparing them for a new grace. But they rejected it, preferring the old life they were living.
One thing this tells us is that if we are to receive this new wine of the grace of God, we must be ready and willing to abandon our old selves and become new. Change can be hard. Even as evangelized Christians who are already living in the grace of Christ, we will be continually called to a deeper and deeper change in our lives. Too often we can easily become complacent and content with the life we are living. When that happens, it will hinder our Lord from pouring the new wine of His grace into our souls in ongoing superabundance.
How do you deal with change in life? If you want to grow in holiness, you can be certain that change is the only constant in life. We must become new creations each and every day, growing, being more fully transformed, changing our ways, giving up the old and embracing that which is ever new. This requires a certain amount of courage as we come face-to-face with the daily need to be changed by grace. It means daily death to our old self and daily becoming a new creation in God.
Reflect, today, upon the courage it takes to change. What is it in your life that you may be afraid to change? What “old wine” do you prefer over the “new wine” of God’s grace? What old habits or attachments do you have that our Lord wants you to let go of? Face the changes God wants for you with courage and trust, and You will indeed become more fully the new creation in Christ you are meant to be.
My most merciful Lord, I know You call me to continual change in my life. Please give me the courage I need to face all that I need to detach from in life and all that hinders me from becoming the glorious new creation You have called me to become. Pour forth Your abundant grace into my life, dear Lord, making me into Your new and glorious creation in grace. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Divine Law of Our Lord
Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
“The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” Luke 6:5
This short yet powerful statement by Jesus was spoken in response to the Pharisees who questioned Jesus as to why His disciples were apparently doing what was unlawful on the sabbath. They were walking through a field of grain, picking grain as they walked, and eating it for nourishment on their journey from one town to another.
This challenge from the Pharisees highlights their scrupulous approach to the moral law. Recall the Third Commandment given through Moses: “Remember the sabbath day—keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work…” (Exodus 20:8–10). From this Commandment, the Pharisees had developed a complex commentary which went into great detail about what kind of work was forbidden on the Sabbath in their view. One such regulation was to pick and mill grain. Thus, they judged that this was what the disciples were doing and were, therefore, violating the Third Commandment.
The laws of God, as they are given by God, must be followed perfectly. His divine Law refreshes us, enlivens us and enables us to live in union with Him. The Pharisees, however, deeply struggled with a need to control the lives of the people through their human interpretation of the divine Law. By saying that “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath,” Jesus made it clear that this scrupulous interpretation of the Third Commandment taught by the Pharisees did not align with the truths of that divine Law.
One lesson to learn from this encounter is that each one of us can easily fall into a similar trap. It’s easy to replace God’s true Law with our perception of faith and morality. We are weak human beings, and there are many things that affect our thinking and our convictions in life. Emotions, habits, family relationships, friendships, media and so many other things affect us in powerful ways. Sometimes for good and sometimes for ill. We can easily arrive at certain judgments of faith and morality that are slightly erroneous, being based on subtle errors. As a result, we can easily begin to get off track in our thinking and convictions and, over time, can find that we have deviated far from the truths of God. When this happens, it can be difficult to humbly admit it and change our convictions.
Reflect, today, upon the humble truth that Jesus and Jesus alone is Lord of the divine Law. This means that we must perpetually remain open to changing our opinions when we hear our Lord speak to us. Ponder any way in which you have become overly attached to your own opinions. If they bring forth peace, joy, charity and the like, then they are most likely in union with God. If they are burdensome, a cause of confusion, contention or frustration, then you may need to step back and humbly reexamine the convictions you hold, so that He Who is Lord of all will be able to speak His divine Law to you more clearly.
Lord of all Truth, You and You alone are the guide of my life. You and You alone are the Truth. Help me to be humble, dear Lord, so that I can recognize any error in my convictions and turn to You and Your divine Law as the one and only guide for my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
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