Gospel: Mt 12:1-8
It happened that, Jesus was walking through the wheat fields on a Sabbath. His disciples were hungry; and they began to pick some heads of wheat, to crush and to eat the grain. When the Pharisees noticed this, they said to Jesus, “Look at your disciples! They are doing what is prohibited on the Sabbath!“
Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did, when he and his men were hungry? He went into the House of God, and they ate the bread offered to God, though neither he nor his men had the right to eat it, but only the priests. And have you not read in the law, how, on the Sabbath, the priests in the temple desecrate the Sabbath, yet they are not guilty?
I tell you, there is greater than the temple here. If you really knew the meaning of the words: It is mercy I want, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent.
Besides, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.“
The Bible presents the Pharisees as staunch defenders of the Law (in this case, the Sabbath), and would not tolerate anyone violating its prescriptions or veer away from it. However, in the process they disregard a more superior commandment which is the law of charity. They have virtually reduced religion into an activity of keeping laws. By condemning the hungry disciples for picking heads of grain and eating them they have shown that for them, observing legal prescriptions was more important than showing love, compassion and mercy to the needy. We know that the Lord never intended this to be. “It is mercy I desire and not sacrifice“ says the Lord.
Moreover, the reaction of the Pharisees over the disciples’ supposed violation of Sabbath law tells us something about human nature. Their righteousness is not necessarily founded on their love for God and his commandments. It simply reveals that their service of God is tainted with selfishness and vainglory. Ever present in us is the propensity or inclination to be self-righteous and judgmental of others. We have the tendency to be critical of others, their behavior and their actions in order to make ourselves look better than them. At times we can even misuse or pervert the law if it will satisfy our selfish and crooked intentions.