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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

1st Reading (1Sam 16:1-13): The Lord said to Samuel: «How long will you grieve for Saul, whom I have rejected as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen my king from among his sons». But Samuel replied: «How can I go? Saul will hear of it and kill me». To this the Lord answered: «Take a heifer along and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord’. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I myself will tell you what to do; you are to anoint for me the one I point out to you».

Samuel did as the Lord had commanded him. When he entered Bethlehem, the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and inquired, «Is your visit peaceful, o seer?». He replied: «Yes! I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. So cleanse yourselves and join me today for the banquet». He also had Jesse and his sons cleanse themselves and invited them to the sacrifice. As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought, «Surely the Lord’s anointed is here before him». But the Lord said to Samuel: «Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart». Then Jesse called Abinadab and presented him before Samuel, who said, «The Lord has not chosen him». Next Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, «The Lord has not chosen this one either». In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, «The Lord has not chosen any one of these».

Then Samuel asked Jesse, «Are these all the sons you have?». Jesse replied, «There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep». Samuel said to Jesse, «Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here». Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The Lord said, «There anoint him, for this is he!». Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David. When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.
Responsorial Psalm: 88
R/. I have found David, my servant.
Once you spoke in a vision, and to your faithful ones you said: «On a champion I have placed a crown; over the people I have set a youth».

«I have found David, my servant; with my holy oil I have anointed him, that my hand may be always with him, and that my arm may make him strong».

«He shall say of me, ‘You are my father, my God, the Rock, my savior’. And I will make him the first-born, highest of the kings of the earth».
Versicle before the Gospel (Cf. Eph 1:17-18): Alleluia. May the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mk 2:23-28): As he 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 sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”

Fr. Ignasi FABREGAT i Torrents (Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain)

Today, as yesterday, Jesus has to contend with the Pharisees, who are distorting Moses' Law, by highlighting the letter of the law while ignoring the actual spirit of the Law. Indeed, the Pharisees accuse Jesus' disciples of violating the Sabbath (cf. Mk 2:24). According to their annoying arguments, to pick the heads of grain means “to reap”, while crushing them in their hands signifies “to thresh”: these agricultural tasks —and some forty others— were forbidden on the Sabbath, as a day of rest. As we already know, the bread of offering the Gospel speaks of, were twelve loaves of bread that were placed every week on the sanctuary table, as a tribute from the twelve tribes of Israel to their God and Lord.

Abiathar's attitude is the same one Jesus is teaching us today: The less important precepts of the Law have to give way to the most important ones; a ceremonial precept has to give way to a precept of the natural law; the precept of resting on the Sabbath should not, therefore, prevail over the basic needs of subsistence. The Second Vatican Council was inspired by the previous example, and to underline that people have to prevail over economic and social questions, stated: “The social order and its development must invariably work to the benefit of the human person if the disposition of affairs is to be subordinate to the personal realm and not contrariwise, as the Lord indicated when He said that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (cf. Mk 2:27).

Saint Augustine also said: “Love and do as you please.” Do we understand this as saying, or do we allow lesser things to overrule the love we have to place on whatever we do? To work, forgive, correct, attend Mass on Sundays, take care of sick people, abide by the commandments... do we do these because we have to, or because of our love for God? May these considerations help us to revitalize all our deeds with the love our Lord has instilled in our hearts, precisely so that we can also love Him.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “Those who were brought up in the ancient order of things have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord's Day, on which also our life has sprung up again by Him and by His death.” (Saint Ignatius of Antioch)

  • “Sabbath intends to participate in the rest and with the peace of God. But when man refuses the ‘leisure of God’ (worshipping) then he becomes a ‘business slave’.” (Benedict XVI)

  • “Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God.” (Catechism Of The Catholic Church, Nº 2175)