TUESDAY OF THE SECOND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME-YEAR B
This is one of those passages that make it easy for us to view the Pharisees poorly. The Scribes and the Pharisees were the group that cared, that gave their time and energy and talents to their faith, that were entrusted with responsibility.
When we encounter a scene involving the Pharisees, we always try to imagine ourselves in their role. After all, we are also the people who care about our faith and give our time and energy to our congregations and even to participating in daily devotions.
The central issue of this passage is not actually the sabbath but it's about rules or more generally, law. What is the purpose of law?
Across the Old Testament, the purpose of law is to help us get more out of life by directing us to help our neighbour.
It is important to pay attention to both halves of the sentence. Each of us gets more out of life by looking out for each other.
First, law establishes order, and order makes it easier to flourish in life. Think of the Ten Commandments - it is really hard to flourish if it is fine to cheat, steal and murder.
Secondly, law works best if it achieves its intended purpose - only when it's directed to the need of our neighbour.
There is something a little counter - intuitive about that for those of us who live in a highly individualistic culture. Law, we think is something that protects my rights; but the Israelites saw it differently. If I am looking out for my neighbours, then my neighbours are also looking out for me. So it's a big communal affair.
Is it possible to privilege order over neighbour? That is, order makes us feel comfortable, safe and secure till we forget our neighbour's good and think it's all about us. That's what is happening in this Gospel passage. Jesus and his disciples are hungry and are accused of breaking the sabbath law when they pluck heads of grain to eat on that sabbath day.
Should they suffer of hunger just because it is Sabbath day? What will we do in supermarket line at the counter if someone wants to be ahead of others who lined up before him because he wants to rush to the hospital to see a patient? Will we let him slip by ahead of us or will we insist that he follows the order of lining up like the rest?
When David took the concentrated bread let us remember that he was a fugitive, seeking allies and fleeing from Saul, who had declared his intention to kill him.
By remedying David's hunger, the priest sustained the life of a weary traveller and contributed to David's quest to live into his calling as the King.
What the disciples did on that sabbath day aided their discipleship. Following the law does not mean overlooking or neglecting the good of others.
When we allow the good of others to prevail, then the First Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews encourages us through these words, " Brethren: God is not so unjust to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. "