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Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
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: This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting. Let the house of Israel say, “His mercy endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His mercy endures forever.” Let those who fear the LORD say, “His mercy endures forever” (from Psalm 118).
- The Sabbath: “Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath.” Nothing God does is by chance. Everything that happens God either wills or allows in order that good can be done for his glory. Jesus led the disciples through the grainfield knowing his disciples were very hungry and that the Pharisees were among them. He was provoking both to act so he could reveal more fully who God is. God’s will is revealed in every circumstance if we have eyes to see. He calls on us through prayer and discernment to seek God’s will in the daily happenings of our lives.
- God Questions: Jewish rabbis typically taught by asking questions and Jesus continued this tradition. Biblical scholars attribute more than one-hundred questions in the New Testament to Jesus. This is often an effective method for teaching because questions can draw our thoughts beyond the limits of what we know into a deeper understanding of Scripture through discussion and debate. In this case, Jesus was asking the Pharisees to reconsider their understanding with regard to keeping the Sabbath. When we question a church teaching, Our Lord never minds our sincere inquiries. He welcomes our study and encourages us as we wrestle with difficult teachings. He has provided us with great resources: knowledgeable priests, spiritual directors, excellent online resources like The Bible in a Year podcast by Fr. Mike Schmitz, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Reading from the Catechism for just fifteen minutes a day will take us far in our understanding of our faith.
- Something Greater: If the Pharisees accepted what Jesus said was true, it meant that they would acknowledge his divinity, for Jesus plainly called himself divine by stating, “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.” How well do we internalize that Jesus is “something greater”—that he is the Lord, our King, our Master, our Brother? That Jesus is almighty, never changing, perfect in love? Philosopher A. W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our understanding of God informs our every thought and action. We do well to ponder daily, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). When we truly believe that Jesus is “something greater,” every aspect of our lives is changed for the better.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you refuse to let me stay in my own understanding. You constantly call me to a deeper understanding of you. St. Bonaventure, whose feast we celebrate today, says, “No one can become blessed, unless he ascends above his very self, not by an ascent with the body, but with the heart.” Jesus, I trust in you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will open the Catechism of the Catholic Church, heeding these words of St. John Paul II: “In reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church we can perceive the wonderful unity of the mystery of God.”
For Further Reflection: The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Nan Balfour is an events coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, a Catholic Evangelization Ministry that answers Christ’s call by guiding people to encounter him so as to live in hope as pilgrims in daily life. She is also a mother, writer, and speaker on Catholic topics.