Homily for the ninth Sunday of the year
Year B - Mk 2:23-3:6


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"One sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields ; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?' And he said to them, 'Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?' And he said to them, 'The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath ; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.'


"Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, 'Come here.' And he said to them, 'Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?' But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him."





Homily:


"One sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields ; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, 'Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?' "


Among the Jews, the day of rest was, and still is, the Sabbath: our Saturday. Since the resurrection of the Lord, the day of rest has become Sunday, the Day of the Lord: "Dies Domini", the day the Lord rose from the dead. This change is due to the fact that the Resurrection of Christ and that of all the elect of God are but a single Mystery, one which will be fully manifested at the end of time: that is, when the Day of the Lord will come and eternal rest will be the portion of all the men and women who have persevered, until the end, in their faith in the Savior of the world.


In the next world, in the eternity of God, will the elect of God be constrained - or even, if I may use the word, "condemned" - to absolute rest? Not at all! The exact opposite will be the case! Is this a paradox? Certainly! It is, so to speak, the usual paradox of the Mysteries of God. Indeed, in the eternity of God, the Most Holy Trinity is and remains perfectly immutable, as if immobile, always at rest in a depthless and immeasurable joy. However, the Most Holy Trinity cannot be such, i.e. A Trinity in a single divine essence, except in virtue of a primary and completely unique act: that of the generation of the Word by the Father in the Holy Spirit. Consequently, in intimate union with the very Mystery of God, the elect of the Lord, though in rest, will forever take part in the unequalled act which is the generation of the Word: in perfect rest, the elect will share in the Work of God par excellence when the Day of the Lord comes.


All of this can help us to better understand this Sunday's gospel. If there is rest on the Sabbath, there can also be room for action, but not for any kind of action: only the Work of God may be done on the Sabbath.


"And he said to them, 'Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?' And he said to them, 'The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.' "


Is it the Work of God to pluck heads of grain to feed oneself? Is it the Work of God to go into the house of God and, in order to provide for one's needs, take the bread of offering? Certainly! These are works of mercy: mercy towards oneself, mercy towards others. And all this may be done on the Sabbath.


If the Sabbath brings mankind rest and happiness to body and soul, then the Sabbath properly fulfills its role. Of course, the primary task to be accomplished on the day of the Lord is the worship of God and participation in the Eucharistic Banquet, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. But if our body suffers, if our soul is afflicted, then one also needs - sometimes before all else - to give aid to the body and soul made by God for his praise and glory. "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath."


"Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand. And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, 'Come here.' And he said to them, 'Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?' But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was restored."


Jesus heals a man's hand on the Sabbath! What a magnificent work! What a great work of mercy! The hand is one of the wonders of our body: it is used to bring food to our mouth, to write, to work... There are artists' hands, goldsmiths' hands, surgeons' hands! What do we do, in a single day, with our two hands? A multitude of things! How great, then, must have been the happiness of this man on the Sabbath, the day which proclaims an eternity of rest and happiness, when he regained the use of his withered hand!


However, those who were present - the scribes and Pharisees who had seen Jesus healing someone on the Sabbath - were far from sharing in the happiness of the man who had just regained the use of his hand: "And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him."


"The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him."


Throughout his life, Jesus had but one desire: to accomplish the Work for which his Father had sent him to earth, to do the Work of God. This Work of God was done by Jesus for his Father every single day. But, because it is in accordance with the order of things established by God himself, it was especially on the Sabbath, on the day that proclaims eternal Rest and participation in the great Work of God in the next life, that Jesus wanted to highlight the Work for which he was sent to the Jewish people, the People of God. The Sabbath is the Day of the Lord, the Day when Christ testifies to his mission, even to the point of endangering his own life: "The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him."


The Most Blessed Virgin Mary preserved a profound memory of the greatest Sabbath she had ever lived on earth: that which preceded the Resurrection of her Son. Mary grieved and wept, because her Son, the only child she had brought into the world, was dead and lay in a tomb. However, in the higher part of her soul, happiness and peace shone: the happiness and peace that only faith and hope could have brought this woman who, by these two virtues, had already been plunged, as it were, into the eternal bliss and glory of the Divinity. Let us ask Mary to teach us to practice the powerful virtues

of faith and hope, so that, through them, the Day of the Lord might truly be for us a day of joy and peace!