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When We Are Blue

February 8, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014: Second Week in Ordinary Time

I Samuel 16:1-13. Samuel anointed David in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord God rushed upon him.
Mark 2:23-28. The Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath.

Gospel Reflection:

Praise be to Jesus Christ! For evermore!

Time to catch-up some Reflections I did last month; where does the time go?! Anyways, when I was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, they had what are called Blue Laws on Sunday – maybe some of you remember those. About the only thing you could do was to go to Piggly Wiggly to get groceries. (Yes, there is a grocery chain called Piggly Wiggly.) No beer, no movie theatre, nothing but going to Church, and eating with family. And it was not such a bad time – sometimes we needed the extra reminder, you know? This gospel reminds me of that time. A time when we were given guidance on what was allowed or not allowed on the Sabbath. Yesterday’s Gospel reading reminded us by asking the question, ‘can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?’ (Mk 2:19). The bridegroom, of course, is Jesus himself, so he spends some time this week emphasizing that the Sabbath – the day of rest and worship – was indeed created for man, not man for the Sabbath. Today, they’re picking grain.

Mark wrote his gospel primarily for the Gentile believers in Imperial Rome. They had already committed their faith in the Messiah, but may still be unfamiliar with Mosaic Law. So the Evangelist is patient yet still neat and succinct in his explanation of the Son of God to them.

First, Jesus convicts the Pharisees by asking them, “Have you never read what David did?” (Mk 2:25). To Mark’s audience this was a simple question referring them back to David. To the Pharisees? This was a stinging insult. These were the learned men of Israel. All they can see in their legalistic eyes is this Galilean and they must discredit him to the populace. So they equate plucking grain to the harvest. They conveniently forget, according to Deuteronomy, that plucking is ok. “When you go through your neighbor’s field, you may pluck some of the ears with your hands, but do not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain” (Dt 23:26). All they can see in their sin is, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day” (Ex 20:8). No matter what happens, keep that Sabbath! This religiosity, this clericalism, is blind to the sense that there is something bigger than them at work here. I would even venture that this still goes on in churches, congregations, and parishes today.

Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. – Exodus 20:8

Second, he reminds them, David and his men eat the show bread, the Bread of Offering, changed out weekly and reserved only for priests. Except to feed the hungry if there is nothing else. David is the Lord’s anointed, a man after God’s own heart, and now a consecrated, priestly king. Along the line of Melchizedek – like Jesus himself. What the Lord is telling the Pharisees is, if David is allowed, how much more is the Son of God allowed to determine the binding of God’s Law. Man is ultimately the measure of the binding force of God’s positive law. This only infuriates the Pharisees.

Finally, by telling them “the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” Jesus is setting the stage: you are aligned with the fasting of the Old Covenant and die with it, or look toward the feasting of the New Covenant that Jesus brings to the world.

So what does that mean to us? Eat if you are hungry? Lent is coming, you know? But no, too simplified. But, how often do we find ourselves like Pharisees, using pious excuses for not doing something practical – something that needs doing? Saint John Chrysostom wrote about not brushing past the outstretched hand of Christ in the marketplace to bring your gift to the altar. We act as Christ does; we do not need to be reminded by some Blue Laws to keep the Sabbath holy, we keep the Sabbath holy by our imitation of Christ; by being the face – and the hands and feet and the purse and the necessity – of Christ in the world.

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