Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, bishop and doctor of the Church
(Isaiah 38:1-5.21-22.7-8; Matthew12:1-8)
St. Bonaventure was baptized Giovanni. It is said that his name was changed by St. Francis of Assisi who cured him of a childhood illness. The name that stuck means good fortune. The good fortune was both his and Francis’. Bonaventure not only experienced physical healing but also came to know the greatest of the medieval saints. Francis found in Bonaventure a truly wise man who became his successor and biographer. Today’s gospel shows Jesus’ disciples with similar good fortune. They have him as their defender while he has them -- some of whom will die for him – as followers.
The disciples are being criticized for picking grain on the Sabbath. It is not a major offense and may be justified in cases as Jesus demonstrates. Interestingly, Jesus himself is not accused of breaking the Sabbath law here. Evidently he is more ascetic than the others. But he neither extols liberality or abstinence on this occasion. He uses the situation to proclaim the urgency for practicing mercy. He wants his followers to be less critical and more understanding of people’s needs.
We tend to judge harshly when others do not conform to the standards which we use for ourselves. We may be practicing what we preach, but we miss the higher bar of mercy that Jesus sets. He is asking us to discern carefully before criticizing others.