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WHAT I WANT IS MERCY NOT SACRIFICE

Father Francis's picture
Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Ex. 11:10-12, 14 & Mt. 12:1-8

The origin and meaning of the feast of the Passover is explained in today's first reading. This feast was to become a yearly celebration of Israel's deliverance from the slavery of Egypt. As the event of the Passover was the greatest in the history of the people, so the feast was the greatest celebration of the year.

In the Christian Passover, the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are freed from the slavery of sin and its effect which is eternal death. In dying Jesus destroyed our death and in rising He restored our life. That is the greatest event in all of human history.

At the Last Supper, which took place in the context of the Jewish Passover celebration, Jesus also gave a new meaning to that feast as He changed bread and wine into His Body and Blood that would be poured out for us on the Cross the following day. Every Mass is the living memorial of our redemption from sin and the means of obtaining spiritual food for our souls.

There is a special celebration of the Christian Passover at Easter but what Jesus did for us is so profound and vital to us that we are called to weekly Mass and, if we wish, we may celebrate it even daily. This is because every Mass, no matter what the occasion or feast, is principally an offering of praise and thanks to God, for the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary which made possible our salvation.

What God has done for us is beyond comparison with anything. How can we ever thank God for all His kindness to us? If possible we should show our gratitude by being at daily Mass.

Since the days of Moses the Jews had carefully observed the Sabbath, resting on this day as God had rested after completing the Creation, to give time for recreation and prayer. But over the years the Pharisees had imposed restrictions on people's activities to an intolerable extent and anyone who infringed their laws was severely criticised.

The incident in today's Gospel involved Jesus and His disciples in a violation of Sabbath law. By plucking ears of com they were considered to be harvesting, and therefore working, and so the Pharisees seized on the chance to attack them. But Jesus fought on their own ground by referring them to Scripture: the priest in the house of God had given the holy bread intended only for sacred purposes to David and his men who were very hungry. The point Jesus is making is that where the need is greatest all laws and rituals must give way. Obviously Jesus' apostles were not starving but it gave Him an opportunity to reprimand the Pharisees for their unbending approach. In effect Jesus is telling them to stop being pernickety. Jesus also reminds them that their priests have to work on the Sabbath and no one complains that they are breaking the rules! Finally, Jesus by telling them that He is greater than the Temple, is saying that He is the Lord of the Sabbath and that, therefore, they should listen and learn from Him.

Lord Jesus may we learn from this incident that rules and rituals have to be observed but there are occasions when other needs must take priority. Teach us to recognise how best we should be doing Your Father's will.

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