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Lord of the Sabbath
Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest
Saturday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
While Jesus was going through a field of grain on a Sabbath, his disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you not read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry? How he went into the house of God, took the bread of offering, which only the priests could lawfully eat, ate of it, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, once again I turn my attention to you and your living word. I need the gift of the Holy Spirit to enlighten my mind and heart through your grace. I can easily be tempted by distractions and become discouraged. I know I am in need of your grace to grow in my journey of faith and to be as holy as you desire me to be. I unite this time of prayer with all the faithful around the world and especially ask through the intercession of the saints in heaven to be present with me in my time of prayer with you.
- Jesus Is Lord: Yet again Jesus was up against the apparently clever verbal arguments of the Pharisees looking to trip him up. Their understanding of religious piety turned a simple observation of the disciples’ casual walk through the cornfields into a dispute of judgmental scrutiny. Jesus took this opportunity to further reveal God’s long-range plan and establish his sovereignty. “The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath”. Throughout human history, God has consistently led his people, the children of Israel, by way of human instruments. God has made himself known, sending his grace into the world through the human lives of prophets, judges, and kings. The religious leaders of Israel, who were supposed to be these same instruments, were the ones hardened in mind and heart to the Messiah. Where have I forgotten the reasons behind going to Mass on Sunday and observing the commandments? Where do I get caught up in external practices, losing sight of who I worship and how my acts of piety place me in the presence of God? What perceptions of Jesus’s lordship do I need to correct or purify? How does God want me to relate to him as Lord?
- A Law of Freedom: The Pharisees were convinced that it was enough to simply follow the rules, but in reality they were bound and caught up in themselves and their complex rituals and requirements. Prayer was no longer a time of worship and spiritual growth, but a heavy burden. They had forgotten that the essential purpose of carrying out the external detail of the law to learn to love God and neighbor better. Jesus most certainly valued rituals, but he did not see them as the source and summit of religion. Ritual by itself is empty if it is not grounded in a relationship and oriented toward a person. What we gather from God in the time of prayer brings life, joy, and relevance to the rituals and the customs of religious practices and faith. What religious practices or habits draw me closer to the Lord?
- Lord of the Sabbath: It was God, in the first place, who instructed the Hebrews to observe the Sabbath, so when Jesus said that he was Lord of the Sabbath he was identifying with God. This claim enraged the Pharisees and ultimately led to his death. Our Lord is not obsessed with rules and regulations. He desires our commitment and faithfulness to himself, but we are not to get fixated on external activities. God’s central concern is for our spiritual well-being and the love in our hearts. He asks us to observe each Sunday as a gift, a privileged moment to leisurely spend resting with and in him. It is a time to recapture reverence for him as Lord. Is Sunday my day for meeting the Lord of the Sabbath? Is it the day of Resurrection to increase my longing for the moment I’ll be with the Lord in heaven for eternity?
Conversing with Christ: O Lord, I am afraid of becoming like the Pharisees. I too have a tendency to get stuck in my own foolish, hard-hearted ways. Your law of love requires self-giving, not self-assurance or complacency. I want to be free to grow in my love for you and my neighbor. You know me and you know the goodness of my heart. Grant me the grace to leave behind false securities rooted in keeping up with appearances, and to mature and deepen my relationship with you. Let me always live in the truth and not be deceived by my pride or vanity.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray and reflect upon my weekly Sunday routine to see how I can love you more by preparing, participating, and prolonging the experience of attending Mass. I will listen and respond to how you want me to live this day dedicated to you for worshipping you and growing spiritually.
For Further Reflection: Listen or watch the conference “Keeping Christ First in Our Lives” from The One Thing Needed: A Retreat Guide on Martha and Mary by Father John Bartunek, LC. As always, this Retreat Guide is available in audio, video, and textual formats.
Written by Lucy Honner, CRC.