By Michael Smith
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 12:1-14
1 At that time Jesus went through the cornfields on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
9 He left that place and entered their synagogue; 10 a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath?” so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and it was restored, as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.
That word “Sabbath” occurs eight times in today’s gospel lesson, mostly about misunderstandings or over-regulation of the seventh day of the week. Why did God command the keeping of the Sabbath? After all, it is one of the “Big Ten”: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work. … For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it” (Ex. 20:8-11).
The Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer teaches that it is part of our duty to believe and trust in God by setting “aside regular times for worship, prayer, and the study of God’s ways” (BCP 847). How are you doing with that?
Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
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The Diocese of Grafton (Anglican Church of Australia)
Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y.