"For the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath." Matthew 12:8
The readings for today’s Mass draw us into two very dramatic moments, the first, in the life of Israelites as they wait for The Day of Deliverance from Slavery in Egypt and the second, Jesus’ disciples being delivered from the slavery of human laws which show no mercy. Both of these dramatic moments have life-long consequences. As we continue reading and reflecting on the following passages after the readings for today’s Mass, we discover just how central they are to our understanding of a God who liberates us despite all odds and a God whose mercy gives us a new chance on life.
Those of us who are very familiar with the Exodus account know what happens next. The Pharaoh finally relents and lets Moses lead the tribes of Israel out of Egypt. The next day, Pharaoh changes his mind and sends his armies after them. God shows him and us that human violence, human power and human greed are no match for God’s sense of Justice and Righteousness. And for us who follow and love this God of ours, there is a sense of comfort knowing that God’s Justice will ultimately prevail over the evils that are caused by a humanity that values power, control, greed and privilege at the expense of other human beings.
The Exodus story is about us, the struggle that we have within us to free ourselves from the demons that try to make us and our comforts the center of our lives rather than embracing the truth that we are all God’s children regardless of when and where we were born. We are all equal and each has the same dignity before God. We share a human tendency to keep what we have now, not to let go of what we have now and not have faith in a future that we know nothing about. I know that I do.
But the Exodus is about letting God lead us out of that human sense of security into a future that promises a new way of life. What a challenge it is for me to let go of my human wisdom and let God lead me into the Promised Land!
The Gospel invites us to see our God, the God of Exodus, in the Person of Jesus. This particular passage of Jesus defending the right of the disciples to eat when hungry and pluck grain on the Sabbath is followed by Jesus curing a man who is worshipping in the Synagogue who has a withered hand. In both of these accounts it is the human law that prevents goodness and mercy to prevail. Jesus would have none of that!
In these readings, we are invited to follow the Spirit of God and of Jesus as we make our way in life. In both of these readings, it is the people who have the responsibility of leadership that find it difficult to do justice and to practice mercy. God and Jesus make a stand against injustice. These readings invite me to look at the way I treat others. I may discover that I do sometimes enslave others with my thoughtless ways. They invite me to look with kindness and mercy upon those who are so disadvantaged in life that they will never have a decent way of life. We all are, after all, God’s children.
We thank God that we follow a God who desires mercy, not sacrifice! Jesus is, after all, the Lord of the Sabbath!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is stationed in San Antonio, Texas.