Don't Judge By Appearances

Tuesday of Week 2 in Ordinary Time - Cycle II

1 Sam. 16:1-13 & Mk. 2:23-28

Those of us who are the youngest in the family can take heart from today's first reading! When Samuel was looking for a future king from the sons of Jesse, the Lord told him to reject each one who was presented to him, beginning with the eldest. Jesse took it for granted that his youngest son David would never be chosen, so he did not invite him to join the group. Then when Samuel asked if these were all his sons Jesse's response went something like this: 'Oh yes, there is one more, but you wouldn't want to waste your time seeing him. He's just the baby of the family.' David then, at Samuel's invitation, was called from the fields where he was herding the sheep and was anointed by Samuel as the new king of Israel.

There are times when we may think we don't qualify for some office or job. We are too young, unskilled, unworthy or uninvited. Yet, we may be the very person the Lord is choosing, for a particular role in life. And if we have to choose others for an office, this text should caution us to judge by the qualities of the person's mind and heart, and not by appearances.

In the Gospel the Pharisees showed how petty they could be in their Sabbath observance. Walking through fields His disciples began plucking the ears of corn and eating them as we might on hot summer days. But the Pharisees maintained that the disciples, by doing that on the Sabbath day, were breaking the Law.

Instead of stopping them Jesus reminded the Pharisees of how once David and his men, when fleeing for their lives, came to the tabernacle at Nob where the only food consisted of 12 loaves placed on a gold table in front of the Holy of Holies as an offering to God. They were changed once a week and then became the property of the priests alone, and in Leviticus 24:9 it was laid down that no one else was to eat it. Yet in their time of need David and his men ate that bread and so technically broke the Law.

Jesus was saying that Scripture provided a precedent in which human need took precedence over even divine law. He concluded with those famous words, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” Man was not created to be the victim and slave of Sabbath rules. The Sabbath rules were created to make life fuller and better for humanity; to give people time to rest one day a week and to worship and love God.

This passage presents us with truths we must never forget. Firstly, that religion does not consist just of rules but of love, forgiveness, service and mercy. Secondly, it teaches us that when there is a physical impossibility to be overcome, there is no obligation to keep religious observances. And thirdly, that if ever the performance of a person's religion stops them from helping someone in need, their religion has been misunderstood because one of the best ways to worship God is to help people in need.

Lord Jesus, where You are, we long to be. May You become the anchor in our lives as we demonstrate our love for You and our neighbours, even if this requires us to break the usual religious observances to help people in need.