Lectio Divina: Mark 2:23-28
1) Opening prayer
Father of heaven and earth,
hear our prayers,
and show us the way to Your peace in the world.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 2:23-28
As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?" He said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?" Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."
• The Law exists for the good of people. One day on the Sabbath, the disciples passed by a cornfield and they opened a path by plucking ears of corn. In Matthew 12:1 it is said that they were hungry. Quoting the Bible, the Pharisees criticized the attitude of the disciples. It would be a transgression of the law of the Sabbath (cf. Ex 20:8-11). Jesus responded quoting the Bible to indicate that the arguments of the others have no meaning. He recalls that David himself did something which was prohibited, because he took the sacred bread of the temple and gave it to the soldiers to eat because they were hungry (I Sam 21:2-7). Jesus ends with two important phrases: (a) the Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath; (b) The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath!
• The Sabbath is made for man and not man for the Sabbath. For more than five hundred years, from the time of the Babylonian captivity to the time of Jesus, the Jews had observed the law of the Sabbath. This secular observance became for them a strong sign of identity. The Sabbath was rigorously observed. At the time of the Maccabees, toward the end of the second century before Christ, this observance had reached a critical point. Attacked by the Greeks on Sabbath, the rebellious Maccabees preferred to allow themselves to be killed rather than to transgress the law of the Sabbath by using arms to defend their own life. For this, one thousand people died (I Mac 2: 32-38). Reflecting on the massacre, the Maccabee leaders concluded that they should resist and defend their own life, even on the Sabbath (I Mac 2:39-41) Jesus used the same attitude: to consider the law of the Sabbath in a relative way in favor of human life, because the law exists for the good of human life, and not vice-versa!
• The Son of Man is also the Lord of the Sabbath! The new experience of God as Father gives Jesus, the Son of Man, the key to discovering the intention of God who is at the origin of the Law of the Old Testament. For this reason, the Son of Man is also the Lord of the Sabbath. Living with the people of Galilee during thirty years and feeling in His own person the oppression and the exclusion to which so many brothers and sisters were condemned in the name of the Law of God, Jesus perceives that this could not be the significance of that law. If God is Father, then He accepts all as sons and daughters. If God is Father, then we should be brothers and sisters to others. And this is what Jesus lived and preached, from the beginning to the end. The Law of the Sabbath must be at the service of life and of fraternity. It was precisely because of His fidelity to this message that Jesus was condemned to death. He disturbed the system. He was uncomfortable for them and the system defended itself, using force against Jesus, because He wanted the Law itself to be at the service of life and not vice-versa.
• Jesus and the Bible. The Pharisees criticized Jesus in the name of the Bible. Jesus responds and criticizes the Pharisees using the Bible. He knew the Bible by heart. At that time, there were no printed Bibles as we have today! In every community there was only one Bible, hand written, which remained in the Synagogue. If Jesus knew the Bible so well, it means that during 30 years of His life in Nazareth, He participated intensely in the life of the community, where the Scripture was read every Saturday. By comparison, we are still lacking very much in familiarity with the Bible and participation in the community!
4) Personal questions
• The Sabbath is for the human being and not vice-versa. How do I interpret this?
• Even without having the Bible at home, Jesus knew it by heart. Do I?
5) Concluding prayer
I give thanks to Yahweh with all my heart,
in the meeting-place of honest people, in the assembly.
Great are the deeds of Yahweh,
to be pondered by all who delight in them. (Ps 111:1-2)