Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
(I Samuel 16:1-13; Mark 2:23-28)
To appreciate today’s gospel requires a proper understanding of the Jewish notion of Sabbath. It was certainly more than a long weekend as it has become in contemporary times. Rather it was a gift from God to escape the drudgery of work. Indeed, observing the Sabbath by desisting from all work imitated God’s own action after completing the work of creation. In Jesus’ time Sabbath observance was indicative of one’s faithfulness to the Covenant which God contracted with the people of Israel.
The Pharisees criticize Jesus’ disciples for two reasons. They see them working on the Sabbath by picking grain to eat. Their complaint includes as well that the disciples are walking farther than was allowed as a restriction of one’s physical effort.
Jesus responds to the Pharisees by referring to the story of David sharing consecrated bread with his hungry companions. His disciples may have been similarly hungry, but that is not the main issue here. What is more important is that Jesus assumes the authority of David, God’s anointed. As the Messiah, Jesus is claiming the right to dispense Sabbath obligations.
We want to follow Jesus by first worshipping him on Sunday, the new Sabbath. We also follow Jesus by using Sunday as a time to recuperate our energy spent in work during the week. Finally, we follow Jesus by being slow to criticize others who don’t seem to comply with ever law and social custom.