Picking Grain on the Sabbath

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Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time


Matthew 12:1-8 

At that time 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.” He said to them, “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? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? 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.”


Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me a heart like your own, a heart that worships you in all I am and do. Transform my heart so that I will seek to offer others what they truly need from you—mercy and love.


Encountering Christ:


  1. What Do We See?: The Pharisees were quick to judge the actions of Jesus’s disciples. They were more vigilant in finding fault than in truly seeing the person they were observing. Their calculating vision of what must and must not be done obscured their sense of true righteousness and they became blind to the human person before their eyes. They claimed to be righteous, and yet they were lacking in the essential charity which orders and creates space for true righteousness. Does this happen with us? Are we capable of seeing the hunger in the eyes of the person before us, not just physical hunger, but spiritual hunger and thirst? Can we look beyond their actions that defy all our notions of what is good and true to see what they truly need—not a judge, but a heart of mercy? 
  2. True Righteousness: Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will have their fill.” The vacuum we experience in our hearts longs to be filled with something. A great temptation is to fill it with self-seeking satisfactions of this world. Christians who strive to be faithful are tempted by the subtle pride of self-righteousness born from a desire to compare and see themselves as better or holier than others. It is like an incarnated Pharisee in our hearts. But authentic righteousness seeks to fill the vacuum with the love of God. Charity becomes the reigning virtue that helps us prioritize our values, consider the deeper needs of those around us, and above all else, seek the kingdom of God. 
  3. Mercy, Not Sacrifice: When we look at the cross we see sacrificial love that expresses itself in the form of mercy. Jesus teaches us that sacrifice is not lived for sacrifice’s sake, but is sometimes–in fact, oftentimes–a consequence of love. In this case, it is love expressed as mercy. The Pharisees demanded sacrifice without extending mercy. They lost sense of the essence of their vocation as guardians of God’s law, created to help us live according to God’s heart, with the highest command at the forefront of all: “Love the Lord your God…and love your neighbor as yourself.” As Christians, we are called to be transformed by Christ, which implies loving as he loves, ready to sacrifice for the sake of mercy and charity.


Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I desire a heart of mercy like yours, as you continue to have mercy for me and the whole world. Transform my vision to see your commands as a means of mercy to keep me faithful to you. Transform my heart so I may see the hunger and thirst for you that is present in those who stray from your path. Let me not judge nor demand without seeking to offer mercy and charity.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will be attentive to my thoughts and my affections, and how they may be judgmental towards others. I will ask for a merciful heart.

For Further Reflection: Is It OK to Judge Someone? Father Mike Schmitz.


Written by Jennifer Ristine.

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