Tag Archives: Sabbath

Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent

Lent 1


READINGS
In today’s reading from John’s gospel, the cure of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethsaida sets off criticism of Jesus by Jerusalem’s leaders who accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Others before questioned their absolute proscription of Sabbath work;  God, after all, maintained creation on the Sabbath, babies were born, people died, God passed judgment on that day.

But now the leaders make a greater charge– Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, saying he continued his Father’s work; he had power over life and death; he will judge the living and the dead. These are divine powers.  Jesus claims to be God’s unique Son, true God, true man.

“Who do you say I am?” is a question Jesus raised then and he asks us now. That’s a question our readings from John’s gospel asks through the remainder of this week and into Holy Week.

Our readings and prayers this week recognize that God gives the gift of faith and restores it in us;  John’s gospel, read from now on till after Easter at Mass, reminds us of that.  The man waiting for 38 years at the pool of Bethesda, the man born blind, Nicodemus in the dark, Lazarus in the tomb are signs of the helplessness of humanity that waits for the life-giving Word of God. God alone makes the weak strong and those who have nothing live.

Waters from the temple flow through the world, yesterday’s reading from Ezechiel says. We’re not meant to be a small church.

Wednesday of the 4th week of Lent was an important day for the early church in Rome which met today at the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls with its catechumens preparing for baptism at Easter. A cross was traced on their foreheads. They were given the Apostles’ Creed and told to memorize it and reflect on it as a summary of faith. They were also given the Our Father to be prayed as their basic prayer.

Lord Jesus,
I believe you are God’s Son,
true God from true God,
I believe you have come to save us.

For Morning and Evening Prayers today.

Another Point of View

Close-up view of wheat. Licensed by Bluemoose under CC BY-SA 3.0.

15th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)

Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”

If the wheat plants in this story could speak, they might shake their heads in wonder and ask, “Who is picking on who?”

As Jesus and his disciples were picking their heads of grain, a bunch of busybody Pharisees with wandering eyes began to pick on the pickers. 

A strange scenario! The wheat, for their part, joyfully welcomed the Lord of the sabbath to pick their heads and eat them. That is what they were made for. Never was a greater “honor” bestowed on wheat than to nourish their own Maker, though honor was not in their vocabulary. 

The whole field pricked up their wheat ears as Jesus explained: “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry, how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering, which neither he nor his companions but only the priests could lawfully eat?”

Silent applause. A glorious day in the history of wheat was being recounted, when the youthful David, the great champion over Goliath and future king of Israel, nourished himself and his companions with the holy bread at the hands of the noble priest Ahimelech (I Samuel 21:1-6). 

“Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath and are innocent?”

Deep silence. How were the Pharisees going to respond to that obvious incongruity in their charge against Jesus? If picking grain on the Sabbath was unlawful, why not the more laborious work of temple sacrifice and ritual?

All of this sounded like nonsense to the wheat, for whom nature was simple and straightforward. When a creature was hungry, it ate. When thirsty, it drank. Every day belonged to the Lord of creation; simply to exist was to give him praise. The rules and regulations of humankind were simply baffling, and not a little unnatural (in the humble opinion of the wheat). 

“I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Thunderous silent applause from the acres of wheat surrounding the conversation. Mercy! What a novel idea! Didn’t the humans realize that to be was to be merciful? To live was to love? The wheat knew this and gave thanks continually for the sun and soil, water and air, and the diligent hands of the farmer who nurtured them day after day. The simplest things eluded the most intellectual of creatures. 

As Jesus and his disciples departed, the Spirit of the Lord whispered to the wheat, “Today you have nourished your Maker and become his Body and Blood. In days to come you will work with me to divinize his brothers and sisters by feeding them his Body and Blood.”

The wheat entered into a silent alliance with the Spirit but did not consider it an honor. Their obedience was wholly spontaneous and unself-conscious.

-GMC

Related post: The Law Incarnate

Healer of Withered Hearts

      The Gospel for this Wednesday, January 18th, once again reminds me of our purpose as a church, to bring the healing power of God’s love to each other and to this wounded world, as soon as possible, without delay or excuse:

     “Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if He would cure him on the sabbath so they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Come up here before us.’ Then He said to the Pharisees, ‘ Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it? ‘ But they remained silent. Looking at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, Jesus said to the man, ‘ Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out and his hand was restored.” (Mk 3: 1-5)

     With all eyes upon Him Jesus took the opportunity to challenge,teach, and also to heal. Once again Jesus was breaking the rules of His Jewish religion, putting His own life at risk to show us how to live in the Kingdom.

     His challenge : paraphrasing the words of Pope Francis, are we, the Church, an empty museum for “saints”, or are we called to be “a field hospital” for the wounded, the lost, the withered, the sinner? We have many rules that damn the divorced, the gay person, the addict, the non-believer. Can we begin by welcoming, in our hearts and lives, those outsiders, the errant ones, hungry for the meaning in their lives that Jesus can most certainly provide? I don’t know that Jesus will turn them away because “it’s the sabbath “, or for any other reason. Maybe neither should we.

     His lesson: the time to accept and heal is now, today, with everyone we meet. Let us truly stop and see our brothers and sisters. Let us show interest, empathy, love. Let us risk our own lives and dare to reach out to the ones who might not even trust us. Let us risk criticism or rejection for the sake of love of neighbor.

     The healing: with every little act of mercy for others, the love of Christ reaches within our own withered hearts, and heals us as it changes us. With these hearts open to Jesus, let us accept His light, to change our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh and blood, sources of love to the world.

     Our Lord gave His life for us. May we give our lives to Him, and to the healing of His people.

     Orlando Hernandez

Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus and his opponents often clash over the Sabbath, as they do in today’s reading from Luke’s gospel.(Luke 6,1-5) Jesus’ disciples take some grain as they walk through the fields in Galilee. “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” some Pharisees ask. All four gospels cite incidents like this. The question of the Sabbath was raised repeatedly in Jesus’ ministry.

We may think the question is about a Jewish law, but it’s really about God. How would God act if someone was hungry, or thirsty, or in need? That’s not a bad question to ask ourselves as we look out into our world. What would God do for the people we see in need? How would God look at those who belong to a different race or culture or nationality than we do? How would God act towards those who harm others or live unjust lives?

The Sabbath is God’s day, a day to remember who he is and what he has done. It’s not a day that restricts how we live, but a day that expands our vision to God’s vision. It’s a day to help us live other days of our lives. On the Sabbath, God gives us hope.

No wonder Jesus spoke of himself as “Lord of the Sabbath,” for he reveals the God we want to know. Too bad so many think of him as someone who restricts the way we live. It’s just the opposite. He teaches how live and offers a hope beyond any we could conceive.