Friday, July 18, 2014

“We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones.”

“True law is right reason in agreement with nature; it is of universal application, unchanging and everlasting; it summons to duty by its commands, and averts from wrongdoing by its prohibitions.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero, On the Republic/On the Laws

Gospel Text: (MT 12:1-8)
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.”

A recent photo made worldwide headlines: a group of Ukrainian priests bravely stood between police and protesters on the streets of Kiev. The priests prayed both for the protesters and the police and offered refuge to the injured. Said one priest, “God is supposed to be with those who are persecuted… . It is why from the very beginning our priests were with our people in the middle of that square. And in many cases, the very presence of the priests kept those protests peaceful.” Technically, the priests were breaking the letter of the law because they were defying the police. But at the same time, they were upholding the spirit of the law, which was to secure the welfare of the people.

This story reminds us that being a Christian sometimes means going against the grain—which is just what Jesus’ apostles did on the Sabbath. The Pharisees viewed them as lawbreakers, but Jesus knew they had done nothing wrong. He pointed out how King David violated the Sabbath out of necessity and how the temple priests were doing God’s work when they “worked” on the Sabbath. In their focus on technicalities, Jesus’ opponents were ignoring the very purpose of the Law: love of God and neighbor.

Jesus wants us to be like the Twelve and like these Ukrainian priests. He wants us to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14). Salt prevents decay, and light disperses darkness. Think of how Francis of Assisi’s life of humble poverty helped reform the entire Church. Or how Mother Teresa’s care for the poor alerted the whole world to the cries of the neediest and most vulnerable.

How is God asking you to witness to his love today? You may encounter a homeless person near work and feel uncomfortable about reaching out to him or her in front of other people. Perhaps your friends will engage in hurtful gossip. It may be hard to stay silent or to try to turn the conversation. Whatever the situation, the Spirit will tell you what to do and how to act on his inspiration. Just take one small step, and you will be blessed. And so will those around you!

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