“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath” (Mk 2:27-28).
In making the above statement, Jesus was not discrediting or devaluing the observance of the Sabbath. He was weighing in on one of the common debates that Jewish people engaged in about what was considered work, and thus what could and could not be done on the Sabbath. Jesus went deeper to address the origin of the Sabbath observance in that it, “commemorates God’s creative and saving action for humanity, and alleviating hunger might be an example” (Donahue and Harrington, 112).
God created us, formed us, and breathed life into us. God seeks intimacy and closeness between himself and us his created beings, his children. God is our source and we are interconnected in our relationship with him and with one another. God continues to deal with us in a personal way. The Torah, the Law or the Teachings, is meant to enhance the intimacy and closeness of that relationship with God and one another, to provide boundaries and definition so that we can resist going astray.
Jesus has come to fulfill the Law, to restore it from distortion, while at the same time bring it to a higher level of love. When asked what commandment is the greatest, Jesus announced that we are to Love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Mk:29-31). To live out this commandment then, we need to foster our relationship with God if we are to experience his love, mercy, and forgiveness, to fill up to overflowing, so to share with others what we have received, otherwise, we have nothing to give.
With or without a relationship with God we can experience emptiness, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. Without a relationship with God, and the community of the Church, we are more vulnerable to the temptations to satiate our hunger with the material, finite, and false goods, that are readily available, and hungering more, falling deeper into the lures of power, pride, prestige, ego, and addiction. We then seek to protect that false sense of self at all costs, and react defensively, as we feed our fear and pride. We buffer ourselves off from the very one we have been created for, and those we consider as other. In following this path, we isolate ourselves from God and one another and this provides fertile ground in which fear, prejudice, sexism, and racism can grow. Dehumanization and objectifying human beings also can manifest itself.
As a part of the Church and actively engaged, we are constantly reminded that we are not alone and that all of us and creation are interconnected. As Pope Francis shared in his homily in 2018: “Having doubts and fears is not a sin. The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection. The sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor when this is, in fact, a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord.”
May we resist the fear of those we may perceive as different, but seek instead to encounter, accompany, and work to empower and provide means of access for one another, especially, the most vulnerable among us. May the scales of prejudice and racism fall from our eyes such that we may see each person as God sees us, as human beings endowed with dignity, worth, potential, and diverse gifts, created in his image and likeness from the moment of conception through each stage of life until natural death.
Let us align ourselves with the Lord of the Sabbath, who walked with his disciples among a field of wheat one day, and who is now our Bread of Life this day. As his followers, we are to commit to allowing no evil talk to pass our lips and to say only the good things that people need to hear (cf. Ephesians 4:29). We are to have the courage to stand up, call out and hold accountable those who delegitimize, degrade, and dehumanize others in word and deed, while at the same time resist attacking the person. We are to love, to will their good, even those who speak and act with hate and in so doing, their hearts may soften. As with Dr. King, whose memorial we celebrated yesterday, we are called to be instruments of the light that dispels the darkness and the love that transforms hate.