Ex 11:10-12: 14;
Ps 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18;
Mt 12: 1-8
FULFILLING THE LAW IF LOVE
Psychologist Alfred Adler says:
“It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”
In other words, if we are not interested in others this can be the source of our failure and unhappiness.
Humans see a sharing in a meal as more than just satisfying a need for nourishment. Gathering with others shows a bond and often allows us to recall special events of our shared past. Think about a Thanksgiving meal, a Christmas dinner, and an anniversary or birthday party. When we “break bread” with others we feed not just our bodies but also our emotions and social needs.
We are united with those with whom we share the meal. We are able to reflect on our common experiences. This lifts us up and beyond the level of gobbling down something to relieve our hunger pangs.
Today’s First Reading is the familiar account of the Passover. We hear how the Israelites are instructed to take the blood of the lamb and apply it to the doorposts and lintels of their homes so that God, using the angel of death, would “pass over” their homes and not kill their sons.
It also describes the meal they were to eat and how they were to keep this festival meal as a memorial of the Lord’s freeing them from their slavery in Egypt.
In today’s gospel, the disciples of Jesus were accused of breaking the law of the Sabbath. Because of their hunger, they were forced to pick the heads of grain and eat them while walking. Jesus defended his disciples against the Pharisees; “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry...”
The gospel today challenges us to observe the highest law, the law of love. Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments into two: love God and love your neighbor. Because love is the fulfillment of the law, it is not observed without the practice of love and compassion, especially to the poor and the needy.
Dear Christians, rules, laws, regulations and traditions, are good for they are meant to provide peace and order, social order to give direction to one’s life and to promote life.
They are beneficial to us. But the moment we forget the person, for whom the laws were made and become too legalistic, too formalistic and structured, the laws cease to be life-giving. They stifle life. Instant judgments and counting the mistakes of others become then so natural that mercy, forgiveness and compassion are easily forgotten.
The trouble with the Pharisees was that they were so fixated to the letters of the law that they had hardly any regard for the human person. They were too legalistic, too formalistic and structured. At times, we are not also spared from this attitude.
We tend to focus more on the strict implementation of the rules to the extent that life-giving relationships are endangered.
The more we observe the law, the more we should be loving and compassionate. That is why Jesus said: “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” Our sacrifices, prayers to God will be void if there is no love and compassion in our hearts.
Jesus reminds us today that it is mercy, forgiveness and compassion which I would say the recipes for happiness and not sacrifice that matters. Mercy can mean faith, solidity, steadfastness, loyalty, judgment, righteousness and love.
Ultimately, the Pharisee’s greatest mistake was not their failure to interpret the law correctly but their inability to recognize the Lord who was standing by very closely May we be spared from the same mistake
The law is made to guide us, to take care of the welfare of others, to protect others. The Pharisees were protecting the law but failed to protect and provide the welfare of the needy. Observance of the law of God should inspire us to be more loving because the real spirit of the law is to give life, to uplift life, not to destroy life.
In the end what matters is how we have touched, sustained, cared for, and borne with one another – mercy, not sacrifice.
May the good Lord help us to be life-givers by fulfilling the law of love.