We all are obligated every single day to follow a myriad of rules. The vast majority of those rules are beneficial and should always be obeyed. For instance, you should always stop at red lights and look both ways before crossing a street. Others seem silly, like your mom’s rule that you had to wait an hour after you eat before getting back in the pool. There are some rules, however, that can be followed or not depending on the circumstances. In today’s gospel passage, Jesus is confronted in just such a circumstance.
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”
Jesus’ scolding of the Pharisees is founded on their absolutism regarding adherence to the letter of the law, no matter what the circumstances. We too can sometimes fall into absolutism. For example, many people will tell you that you should never give money to a homeless person panhandling on the street. They argue that the money will be used to buy drugs or alcohol. In some cases, that is absolutely true. It isn’t, however, always true. As the Holy Father teaches us, who are we to judge? Do the rules we abide by and enforce in our lives leave room for mercy and compassion?