Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath” (Lk 6:5).
The disciples were traveling with Jesus, they gathered food where they could. In today’s Gospel, they picked heads of grain and rubbed them in their hands to make them easier to chew. The critique of those Pharisees, presumably, walking along with or close by to Jesus, was that his disciples were breaking the sabbath law by working and thus not keeping it holy.
The reason for this was that pious Jews would often practice what is called, building a hedge around the Torah, meaning that they would institute practices beyond the original law so that there would be no way of breaking it. Fr. Bill Burton, ofm, shared an example that has stuck with me since my Scripture studies in seminary.
There is a prescription in Exodus 23:19, that states that you should not cook a kid (baby goat) in its mother’s milk. So as not to even come close to breaking this law, observant Jews developed the practice, which continues today, to not cook any meat and dairy together; thus the idea of building a hedge around the Torah. The hedge in today’s reading had to do with what constituted work and what did not, so as to keep the sabbath rest intact and keep the Sabbath holy. Jesus settled the debate by claiming that he was the Lord of the Sabbath.
The Lord of the Sabbath needs to be the Lord of our lives. We live in a fallen world, but even at its best, we live in a finite and fragile world. We as human beings can only do so much. The best we can do is to use our intellect and ability to reason while at the same time seek to discern God’s will and direction so to have access to the spiritual resources that he offers to us in our everyday affairs, especially when tragedy strikes.
JoAnn, my heart and wife for the past twenty-three years passed away this past Monday morning as a result of the ever-increasing effects of pancreatic cancer. The Bahamas and the outer banks of North Carolina were devastated by Dorian. The Amazon continues to burn. Tragedy, pain, and suffering happen in our independent lives directly and in our world collectively. Yet, in each instance, we are not abandoned, we are not alone. God works with us and through others who allow their hearts and minds to be open to his love working through them.
I cannot answer why these things happen. I cannot answer why JoAnn had pancreatic cancer. But I do know God was with us every step of the way and as JoAnn physically decreased she allowed her mind and heart to be open, such that Jesus increased in her life touching others through her with his love. There will be many who will reach out to come to the aid of the Bahamas and North Carolina, and I pray there will be more of an outpouring of world support for the people and lands of the Amazon.
Jesus needs to be the Lord of our lives, in and out of season, in the midst of our trials as well as our joys and celebrations. As we lean on him and each other all things are possible and what may seem incomprehensible or hopeless at the moment, God will bring about a greater good through his will and timing.
Photo: Sunset at Santa Monica Beach two nights ago with Jack and Christy watching the sunset.