(photo: Msgr. John Myslinski)
(photo: Msgr. John Myslinski)
Moving into the 12th chapter of St. Matthew's gospel, we encounter Jesus confronting the Pharisees who criticized the disciples' activity on a Sunday, e.g. walking through the cornfield and taking a few ears of corn for their meals. To understand something of Jesus' response to those who considered themselves superior to people and the laws, we need remember purposes of the laws the Jews lived with. Here the specific law the Pharisees felt the disciples were violating was the Jews were not to pick up a sickle on the Sabbath ... thus not working in the fields on that special day of the week. The sickle would provide means for someone to go through a field, taking much of the produce. Without the sickle, however, the produce taken to provide food for a meal, would not be considered a violation of the law. Care for the poor and needy would come supercede the law. The Pharisees, in the instance and many others as well, were treating the law as and end in itself. Such a position or practice was their means to imprison or condemn rather than to use the law as a means to liberation.
So, what can we learn from this for ourselves in our communities where laws can be enforced to control others irrationally or unjustifiably [the current debate over the Florida law for self-defense] or where laws meant to lead us to fulfill our obligations as Christians are completely ignored and their purpose is overlooked [excessive speeding while driving]. A Creighton University theologian asks this question: "How do we remain focused on law or command as GIFT of God's self-disclosure about his love and liberation?" This theologian is debating in her mind when and where should we have a "reasonable respect" -- even LOVE for the "laws" of God meant to provide liberation rather than establishing what she calls a "false god" because a particular law becomes idolized.
Humanity was, is and always will be caught in the struggle to use laws for the best answer in any difficulty without using the law beyond its intention or scope. We look at Jesus in this particular instance and his allowing his disciples to take corn from the field because it was necessary and reasonable. We must remember laws are executed as a means to an end. Further we must understand that when a law is "broken" there must be a necessary and reasonable cause for such action. This applies to civil law as well as the laws we have within our Church. God and the Church provide "laws" to help us come to our salvation safely and securely. The challenge for all authority, then, is the obligation to protect the law from become a means to personal power and control.
Thus the picture of trees without all of the lushness of many leaves. We see the essential of all trees. So, Jesus in his confrontation with the Pharisees Jesus is trying to teach the essentials of laws especially when they pertain to our salvation.