Memorial of Saint Anthony, Abbott

Reading 1

The LORD said to Samuel:
“How long will you grieve for Saul,
whom I have rejected as king of Israel?
Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way.
I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem,
for I have chosen my king from among his sons.”
But Samuel replied:
“How can I go?
Saul will hear of it and kill me.”
To this the LORD answered:
“Take a heifer along and say,
‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’
Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I myself will tell you what to do;
you are to anoint for me the one I point out to you.”

Samuel did as the LORD had commanded him.
When he entered Bethlehem,
the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and inquired,
“Is your visit peaceful, O seer?”
He replied:
“Yes! I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.
So cleanse yourselves and join me today for the banquet.”
He also had Jesse and his sons cleanse themselves
and invited them to the sacrifice.
As they came, he looked at Eliab and thought,
“Surely the LORD’s anointed is here before him.”
But the LORD said to Samuel:
“Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature,
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see,
because he sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”
Then Jesse called Abinadab and presented him before Samuel,
who said, “The LORD has not chosen him.”
Next Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said,
“The LORD has not chosen this one either.”
In the same way Jesse presented seven sons before Samuel,
but Samuel said to Jesse,
“The LORD has not chosen any one of these.”
Then Samuel asked Jesse,
“Are these all the sons you have?”
Jesse replied,
“There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said to Jesse,
“Send for him;
we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here.”
Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them.
He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold
and making a splendid appearance.
The LORD said,
“There – anoint him, for this is he!”
Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand,
anointed him in the midst of his brothers;
and from that day on, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.
When Samuel took his leave, he went to Ramah.


As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath,
his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain.
At this the Pharisees said to him,
“Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”
He said to them,
“Have you never read what David did
when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry?
How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest
and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat,
and shared it with his companions?”
Then he said to them,
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.
That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”


I. THEME: Human dignity is more valuable than tradition and laws.


            Human dignity is important to God. He gave people the Law to protect human dignity. In His providence, God never wants people to become slavery for laws and sins; but He wants the Law to serve people and to make their life safe and happy.

            Today readings give two examples to illustrate how God chose a king for people and protected them. In the first reading, the author reported the event God chose David to be a king. He was the youngest son among Jesse’s sons; and according to Jewish tradition, he has no hope to be a king. The reason why God chose him is given: “For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” In the Gospel, when the Pharisees saw Jesus plucked heads of grain to eat,  they said to Jesus, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” Jesus defended his disciples they had a reason to do that to protect their life. He also reminded them one principle of the Sabbath: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.”




1/ Reading I: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”


            1.1/ The selection of a king from Jesse’s sons: God promised to prophet Samuel that He shall help him in selection of a king from Jesse’s sons; both Samuel and Jesse didn’t know the result of this selection.

            (1) Man looks on the outward appearance: People look on the outward appearance because they can’t look on the heart. Jewish and Oriental tradition has a standard to choose the firstborn son for the important position because they think the firstborn is the one who shall carry the family’s tradition and protect them when his father passed away. It isn’t a surprise when Samuel acted the same when he saw the Jesse’s firstborn son: “When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord anointed is before him.””

            (2) The Lord looks on human heart: This is a big difference between God and man, and also a sure reason why God’s selection is always correct. The author stated this clearly in God’s response to Samuel’s thought: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

            This must be an important lesson for us when we have to choose a person to be the leader for our community or the spouse to be our partner for the rest of our life. Many of us wrongly chose them and must endure greatly because we used human standards to choose, such as: beauty, richness, power, fame, smooth-talking… To choose right, we must follow God’s standard, and the most important factor is to fear the Lord. If the one we chose, truly revered God, he shall also keep His Law and love us; but if he didn’t revere God, what shall keep him in His way? He can violate all laws and cares for nobody except himself.         


            1.2/ God selected Jesse’s youngest son, a shepherd, to be a king: After Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel, Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel asked Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” Jesse said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here.” And Jesse sent people to bring his youngest in.


            (1) David’s qualities: The author described David: “Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.” So, his outward appearance is also acceptable; but his inward heart is the factor that matters to God. He sees and understands David’s soul; he always reveres God and cares for His people. This selection is verified because David became the most famous king in Jewish history.

            (2) Samuel anointed him to be a king: The Lord said to Samuel, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.


2/ Gospel: The Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.


            2.1/ The Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples that they violated the Sabbath’s rules: Mark briefly reported the reason of the Pharisees’ accusation: “One Sabbath he (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?””

            There are 39 articles related to the keeping of the Sabbath. Jesus’ disciples violated 4 rules among them: First, they were condemned of harvesting on the Sabbath by plucking heads of grain. Secondly, they ground grains by rolling them in their hands. Thirdly, they winnowed grains when they blew the chaffs out of their hands. Lastly, they prepared food by making grains ready to eat.

            We can shake our head because of the tedium of their laws; but to the Rabbi, they are sins of the Sabbath and they belong to the third commandment. These sins can lead to death. That is the reason why the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples.


            2.2/ Jesus defended his disciples: First, Jesus gave them a special case which was reported in the Old Testament. Next, he reminded them of the principle that guides all the laws. Lastly, he clearly stated that Law is for people, not for God.

            (1) King David’s special case (cf. 1 Sam 21:1-6): Jesus 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?” What Jesus meant is these people may violate the Law to protect their life. For example, when people are in danger of death, they can steal food to eat to protect their life.

            (2) Sabbath’s principle: Jesus continued: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

            The Law, in general, is given to serve and to protect people. The principle behind the third commandment is to help people to have time for God and to rest themselves. People need to use the Sabbath for their spiritual needs, such as: to worship, to pray and to learn Scripture. They also need to rest because their body can’t constantly work.

            (3) The Law is for human beings, not for God: The Sabbath’s laws existed after God created the world and is only for human beings. Jesus is God and the laws have no effect on him.


III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     


            – Human dignity is very precious to God. He sacrificed His only Son to save us from the slavery of the Law, sin and death.

            – We should imitate God, by not judging according to outward appearance; but inward virtues.

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