Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time (July 20, 2018): Is there room for mercy in the law?

Thứ Năm, 19-07-2018 | 15:00:26

Today’s Readings:

Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8
Isaiah 38:10-12, 16
Matthew 12:1-8

USCCB Podcast of the Readings:

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.

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.”

Good News Reflection: Is there room for mercy in the law?

When our daughter was age four, my husband and I tried to sign her up for school a year before the local laws said she could start. A bright and sociable darling, she needed the daily stimulation that Kindergarten could provide, because whenever she got bored, she became a troublemaker. We presented her case to the school authorities, who judged her without meeting her or testing her. They said she wasn’t ready because “that’s our policy.”

After wasting a year and starting Kindergarten when the rules permitted it, a placement test quickly moved her to First Grade. When she graduated from high school, instead of having the problems that the school board had predicted, she was as a well-adjusted, ambitious young lady with high honors and a few college courses already completed.

The educational authorities we had faced were like the religious authorities Jesus dealt with in today’s Gospel reading. The question raised in both situations was: Which is more important, the policy or the person?

The policy that the Pharisees were trying to protect is one of the 10 commandments: Keep the Sabbath day holy. An over-eager man-made policy had been layered on top of it to ensure obedience. It forbade any kind of work that day, including the smallest act of plucking grain. The Pharisees adhered to this interpretation of God’s commandment so closely that they violated his law of mercy. It didn’t matter that the disciples were hungry; the rules were more important.

We become like the Pharisees when we focus on what people “ought” to do while neglecting their needs. Is it merciful when altar servers are publicly corrected during Mass when they make mistakes, embarrassing them as they try to serve the Lord? Is it merciful to give parents a disapproving look when their restless children make noise in church?

What about putting someone into jail for a crime he committed, even though his regrets are strong enough to prevent him from doing it again? Or kicking a teenage girl out of the home because she got pregnant and chose not to have an abortion? Or condemning a couple who marry outside the Church, when what they really need is someone to compassionately journey with them into a conversation about sacramental love, so that when they finally want a Church wedding, it will be much more of a genuine commitment with the Lord than it would have been on their first wedding day?

Even the official Code of Canon Law encourages mercy. Dispensation from the laws is to be granted when the law works against a person’s salvation (for example, see Chapter 5 of Title 4, Canon Laws 85-93). Love is the foundation of every divinely inspired rule, and mercy is the tool for bringing people into a genuine desire to obey the rules.

Today’s Prayer:

I want to thank You, Lord, for the freedom You gained for me. Grant me the grace to serve You free from constraints and worldly prejudices. Amen.

© 2018 by Terry A. Modica

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