Separating the Chaff from the Grain

Luke 6: 1-5
1 Cor 4: 6b-15 / Ps 145: 17-21

The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
(Luke 6: 5)

All acts of piety are useless
If in our hearts enmities remain;
Let not our faith be dry and worthless
Like chaff separated from the grain.

And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6: 1-5)

Reflection

The Pharisees were always on the look-out for any kind of violation that Jesus would commit against their religious traditions. The Sabbath was very strictly observed as a day of rest when no kind of work whatsoever was to be performed. Not even eating, when it involved some kind of manual effort, like separating the chaff from the grain. Jesus showed the Pharisees that all their legalism in observing the Sabbath restricted even the most basic of human activities, like getting a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath. He asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath?” (Mk.3:4) He declared that in fact the Sabbath was the best day in which good should be done, and we read about the many times He healed and expelled evil spirits on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees, for all their obsession with the law had confused legality with morality. Jesus had consistently shown them that they were wrong. Ignoring those in need of medical help for the sake of “keeping the Sabbath holy” is morally wrong. What may seem legal is not necessarily moral, and vice versa. Abortion may be legal in many countries like the United States, but our Church teaches us that it can never be morally right. Meeting for worship may be illegal in countries like China or Saudi Arabia, but they will always be considered morally good in any Christian country. In fact, in many cases, legality and morality are even at odds. Many judges and lawyers uphold the law for the wrong reasons, while many heroes and martyrs, like Ninoy Aquino, Evelio Javier, and John the Baptist give up their lives for the sake of justice.

Jesus performed many of His healings on the Sabbath to show the Jews and future generations of Christians that the Sabbath is made more holy by liberating those who are in bondage with sickness or evil spirits on the Sabbath. In the process, He also freed His followers from the bondage of Old Covenant customs and rituals, which the Pharisees and Jewish leaders had crafted to burden the people.

Jesus was the fulfillment of the Sabbath, and still is our Sabbath, because it is only in Jesus that we find true rest. Whenever we fail to “keep holy the Sabbath day” (going to Sunday mass) for some ‘legal’ reason, we are missing not only the essence of this ‘law’, but our Lord Jesus Himself. And perhaps that is why we are still in bondage.

Your laws, Lord, are good, wholesome, and a delight to obey. I will always strive to learn them, understand them, and obey them as I believe the psalmist who said, ‘How blessed are those whose way is blameless, Who walk in the law of the Lord.’ Amen. (Ps. 119:1).

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