Tuesday 18 January 2022 – THE SPIRIT BEHIND THE LAW

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.

Gospel: Mk 2:23-28 

As Jesus 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 SPIRIT BEHIND THE LAW: Often times, we fall culprits of the law and at times innocently. Laws implemented without understanding the motive, easily become burdensome. When David was in need, he went against the law. When life is in danger, the law can be overlooked. Laws are made to serve the good of society, so, when they become minor invisible and invincible prisons, they make us lose life meaning. Christ comes to correct our wrongful interpretation of traditions and laws. As the Lord of the Sabbath, he is the principal interpreter of human affairs. He therefore, reminds us that human needs are more important than ritual requirements, even on a Sabbath. Jesus challenges his critics to choose between human needs and religious reputation. He does not defend the breaking of the Sabbath, as such, he simply suggests that there is a more important principle at stake, human need.

Prayer: O Lord, help us to discern what is good for human development and not focus on mere observance of law.


USER FRIENDLY LAWS: In the understanding of Jesus, human need is more important than the written law. Since the law came from God originally, Jesus tells the Pharisees they had not interpreted them properly. They might be literal and superficial. In reference to King David, Jesus shows the older interpretation was right one. That is why Jesus said the Sabbath was made for the good of man and man not for the Sabbath. For Jesus, the real priority is not to be slave to the law but to use the law, in the best way possible, to benefit human needs. In other words, human life has to be the measure of everything but not the law. In the same way one can say that religion is for man and not man for religion. If our religion does not enable us to do good to people, it is useless. If the laws and observances do not help a man, then it is meaningless to observe them, better keep them aside.


ALL IN THE NAME OF GOD: Among the numerous applications of the Jewish law was reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal. This act multiplied the laws until an average believer got suffocated. As noted in today’s readings the disciples have broken the law. The Jewish Rabbis view this as a matter of deadly sin. However, a look at nature, questions human wisdom. We see colonies of ants briskly gathering their food on even the hottest of days. They are an inspired army putting aside treasure for the rainy days, when food gathering is impossible. Food is topmost to any form of life. Faced with such a basic need, Jesus responds to this human need by cutting across the scribal rules and regulations. For him human need takes precedence over an offering to God placed at the Holy of Holies. At a time when millions go hungry in our society, what excuses do we give not to reach out to them?