In the Gospel, the Pharisees grumble against Jesus’ disciples for picking the heads of grain and eating them, which is not allowed on the Sabbath. In truth, they are grumbling against Jesus himself. Jesus answers by pointing to what David, the revered king of Israel, did when he and his companions were hungry — how they ate the bread reserved only to the priests. Jesus points out that God desires mercy, not sacrifice. Jesus, the Son of Man who has authority over the Sabbath, is concerned over the plight of human beings. He does not belittle the law of the Sabbath, but it must give way to mercy which concretizes the supreme law of love.
GOSPEL • MATTHEW 12:1-8
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 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.”
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