Friday - Ordinary Time
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow him
reject what is contrary to the
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 - Matthew
At that time Jesus went through the cornfields one Sabbath
day. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them.
The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, 'Look, your
disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the Sabbath.'
But he said to them, 'Have you not read what David did when
he and his followers were hungry - how he went into the house of God and they
ate the loaves of the offering although neither he nor his followers were
permitted to eat them, but only the priests? Or again, have you not read in the
Law that on the Sabbath day the Temple priests break the Sabbath without
committing any fault? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not
sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of man is
master of the Sabbath.'
• In today’s Gospel we see that
there are many conflicts between Jesus and the religious authority of that time.
They are conflicts regarding the religious practices of that time: fasting,
purity, observance of the Sabbath, etc. In normal terms, they would be
conflicts regarding for example, matrimony between divorced persons, friendship
with prostitutes, the acceptance of homosexuals, communion without being
married by the Church, not to go to Mass on Sunday, not to fast on Good Friday.
The conflicts were many: at home, in the school, in work, in the community, in
the Church, in personal life, in society. Conflicts regarding
growth, relationship, age, mentality. So many of them! To live life
without conflicts is impossible! Conflict is part of life and springs up since
the time of birth. We are born with birth pangs. Conflicts are not accidents
along the way, but form part of the journey, of the process of conversion. What
strikes us is the way in which Jesus faces the conflicts. In the discussion
with his enemies, he was not trying to show them that he was right, but wished
to make the experience which he, Jesus, had of God, Father and Mother, prevail.
The image of God which others had was that of a severe Judge who only
threatened and condemned. Jesus tries to have mercy on the blind observance of
the norms and of the law, prevail, since it had nothing to do with the
objective of the Law which is the practice of Love.
• Matthew 12, 1-2: To pick
ears of corn on the Sabbath day and the criticism of the Pharisees. On a
Sabbath day, the disciples went through the corn fields and they opened their
way picking ears of corn to eat them. They were hungry. The Pharisees arrived
and invoke the Bible to say that the disciples were transgressing the law of
the Sabbath (cf. Ex 20, 8-11). Jesus also uses the Bible and responds invoking
three examples taken from Scripture: (1) that of David, (2) that of the
legislation on work of the priests in the temple and (3) from the action of the
Prophet Hosea, that is, he quotes a historical book, a legislative book and a
• Matthew 12, 3-4: The example
of David. Jesus recalls that David himself did something which was
forbidden by the Law, because he took the sacred bread of the temple and gave
it to the soldiers to eat, because they were hungry (1 S 21, 2-7). No Pharisee
had the courage to criticize King David!
• Matthew 12, 5-6: The example
of the priests. Accused by the religious authority, Jesus argues beginning
from what they themselves, the religious authority, do on the Sabbath day. On
the Sabbath day, in the Temple of Jerusalem, the priests worked very much, more
than the other days of the week, because they had to sacrifice the animals for
the sacrifices, they had to clean, sweep, carry burdens, kill the animals, etc.
and nobody said that this was against the Law, they thought it as normal! The
Law itself obliged them to do all this (Nb 28, 9-10).
• Matthew 12, 7: The example
of the prophets. Jesus quotes the phrase of the Prophet Hosea: I want
mercy and not sacrifice. The word mercy means to have the heart (cor) in
the misery (miseri) of others, that is, the merciful person has to be
very close to the suffering of the persons, has to identify himself/herself
with them. The word sacrifice means to have (ficio) a thing consecrated (sacri), that is, that the one who offers a sacrifice separates the
sacrificed object from the profane use and placed it at a distance from the daily
life of the people. If the Pharisees had had this way of looking at the
life of the Prophet Hosea, they would have known that the most pleasing
sacrifice for God is not that the consecrated persons lives far away from
reality, but that he/she placed totally his/her consecrated heart in the
service of the brothers and sisters in order to relieve them from their misery.
They would not have considered guilty those who in reality were innocent.
• Matthew 12, 8: The Son of
Man is the master of the Sabbath. Jesus ends with this phrase: The Son
of Man is the Master of the Sabbath! Jesus himself is the criterion
of interpretation of the Law of God. Jesus knows the Bible by heart and
invokes it to indicate that the arguments of the others had no foundation. At
that time, there were no printed Bibles like we have them today. In every
community there was only one Bible written by hand, which remained in the
Synagogue. If Jesus knew the Bible so well, it means that during the thirty
years of his life in Nazareth, he had participated intensely in the life of the
community, where Scripture was read every Saturday. The new experience of God
the Father, made Jesus discovered much better the intention of God in decreeing
the Laws of the Old Testament. Having lived thirty years in Nazareth and
feeling as his own the oppression and exclusion of so many brothers and
sisters, in the name of the Law, Jesus must have perceived that this could not
be the sense of the Law. If God is Father, then he accepts all as sons and
daughters. If God is Father, then we should be brothers and sisters among
ourselves. Jesus lived this and prayed for this, from the beginning until the
end. The Law should be at the service of life and of fraternity. “The human
being is not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for the human being” (Mk 2, 27).
Because of his great fidelity to this message, Jesus was condemned to death.
He disturbed the system, and the system defended itself, using its force
against Jesus, because he wished that the Law be placed at the service of life,
and not vice-versa. We lack very much in order to know the Bible at depth and
to participate deeply in the community, like Jesus did.
4) Personal questions
• What type of
conflicts do you live in the family, in society, in the Church? Which are the
conflicts which concern religious practices which today, cause suffering to
persons and which are a cause of discussion and polemics? Which is the image of
God which is behind all these preconceptions, behind all these norms and
• What has conflict taught you
during all these years? Which is the message which you draw from all this for
our communities today?
5) Concluding Prayer
Lord, I muse on you in the watches of the night,
for you have always been my help;
in the shadow of your wings I rejoice;
my heart clings to you,
your right hand supports me. (Ps 63,6-8)