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Ninth Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: Dt 5:12-15; II Cor 4:6-11; Mk 2:23-28.
1/ First Reading (Dt 5:12-15): 12 Observe the sabbath day—keep it holy, as the Lord, your God, commanded you. 13 Six days you may labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. 15 Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.
2/ Second Reading (2 Cor 4:6-11): 6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.
7 But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
3/ Gospel (Mk 2:23-28): 23 As he was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. 24 At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” 25 He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? 26 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?” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. 28 That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
I. THEME: Keeping the Sabbath.
Today, many faithful confused Sunday with the weekend. They think that after hard labor in weekday, the weekend is for rest, recreation or doing things which they have no time to during weekday. Some omit even Sunday Mass to have time to sleep more or to visit places.
To help the faithful to know how sacred the Sunday is, the Church chose three today readings. In the first reading, the command “keeping holy the Sabbath is not only from the Church; but has a foundation in the Ten Commandments. It is the third commandment and the serious sin for those who violate. The old tradition can put the violator to death. In the second reading, though has no direct relation to Sunday, but St. Paul wants to help people to recognize God’s power and the strength of the Good News which act in human weakness. In the Gospel, when the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples not keeping the Sabbath, He corrected them not understood the correct and deep meaning of the Sabbath. He also gives practical examples to understand correctly how to keep holy this day.
1/ First Reading: “The seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God.”
1.1/ The third of the Ten Commandment is clearly declared in today first reading: “12 Observe the sabbath day—keep it holy, as the Lord, your God, commanded you. 13 Six days you may labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God.” You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do.”
Pope John Paul II wrote about the Sunday as follows: “Sabbath precept, which in the first Covenant prepares for the Sunday of the new and eternal Covenant, is therefore rooted in the depths of God’s plan. This is why, unlike many other precepts, it is set not within the context of strictly cultic stipulations but within the Decalogue, the “ten words” which represent the very pillars of the moral life inscribed on the human heart. In setting this commandment within the context of the basic structure of ethics, Israel and then the Church declare that they consider it not just a matter of community religious discipline but a defining and indelible expression of our relationship with God, announced and expounded by biblical revelation. This is the perspective within which Christians need to rediscover this precept today. Although the precept may merge naturally with the human need for rest, it is faith alone which gives access to its deeper meaning and ensures that it will not become banal and trivialized.” (Dies Domini, #13)
The third commandment has a foundation in the Book of Genesis: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so, on the seventh day he rested from all his work” (St 2:1-2). On the Sabbath, the Israelites must be together in the synagogues and rest according to the way described by the law. Jewish tradition regards Saturday is the Sabbath, the last day of the week. The Catholic Church regards Sunday as the Sabbath, the day of Jesus’ resurrection. St. Gregory I announced: “For us, the real Sabbath is our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, our God.”
The deepest meaning of the Sabbath is for us to know that time belongs to God. On the Passover night, when the celebrant blesses the Passover candle, Christ’s image, the Church uses these words: Time belongs to God, He is the alpha and the omega, the origin and the end. He is not God of one day but all days in human life. Therefore, people need to use time to benefit God, themselves and others; not only selfishly for themselves.
In God’s plan, there is a differentiation and a connection between the order of creation and the order of salvation. This is emphasized in the Old Testament, when it connects the law of the Sabbath, not only with God’s mystical rest after the creation (cf. Exo 20:8-11) but also with the deliverance which He bestowed on the Israelites in liberating them from their slavery for the Egyptians as in today passage (Dt 5:12-15). God rests on the Sabbath, rejoices in His creation, is also God who displays His glory in delivery His children from king Pharaoh’s suppression.
“All human life, and therefore all human time, must become praise of the Creator and thanksgiving to him. But man’s relationship with God also demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person. “The Lord’s Day” is the day of this relationship par excellence when men and women raise their song to God and become the voice of all creation” (Dies Domini, #15).
1.2/ Why all need to rest: The author wrote: “You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do.” All engines must be rest if not they shall be burned out. God who creates all things, knows very well is often and wants that people need to rest. People should not be slaves for works or money. Greed is often the reason making people to work on the Sabbath.
Attending Sunday Mass is the center of Sunday; but the duty to keep this day is not simplified as such. Indeed, the Day of God is effectively lived if it is marked, from the beginning until the end, by remembering and grateful for God’s redemption. This makes every of Christ’s disciple knowing how to organize every minute of the holy day, such as: familial life, social relations, restful time… according to a peaceful time, and the joy of Christ’s resurrection will be permeated into all events of life. For example, the peaceful encounter between parents and children might be an occasion for not only listening to each other, but also a contribution for thinking time and upbuilding each other which they can’t do during the weekday due to their business of life.
2/ Second Reading: “So that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.”
2.1/ Let light shine in darkness: Paul wrote: “For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of [Jesus] Christ.
7 But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.” Paul compared Christ’s Gospel revealed to him as “treasure in earthen vessels.” Human body is fragile and breakable as a vessel; but because it is protected by God’s power, it is not broken. Paul looked back at all difficulties, suffering and dangers which he had passed; but the Gospel which God gives to him, is still strong. He admires of God’s power.
2.2/ Our flesh is weak and must be dead; but the Good News must be strong and gives life: As Christ’s body must be suffered and dead; but He gloriously resurrected and brings life for human beings, Jesus’ disciples must also be suffered and dead so that Christ’s Good News is always firm and brings life for all people. In other word, Jesus’ disciples must be ready to accept all sufferings even death so the Good News can be extended to all human beings.
3/ Gospel: Jesus and the keeping of the Sabbath
3.1/ The Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of violating the Sabbath: Mark reported: “23 As he was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. 24 At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?””
There are total of 39 forbidden things in the Sabbath. Jesus’s disciples violated four things of these laws: harvesting (plucking grains); grinding (rubbing grains); winnowing (blowing chaffs) and preparing a meal (making grains ready to eat). We can shake our head at the meticulous details of the Sabbath laws; but to Jewish rabbi, they relate to sins and might cause death. That is the reason why they accused them with Jesus and are expecting Jesus to punish His disciples.
3.2/ Jesus protected His disciples: Jesus gave some particular cases recorded in the Old Testament; and then He established a general law about the Sabbath:
(1) David’s case (1 Sm 21:1-6): Jesus intended to say that in case of protecting life, people can violate laws to protect their life. Another example, when people are so hungry, they can steal food to protect their life.
(2) The universal law of the Sabbath: Jesus continues: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” This is obvious since people are made by God before the laws of Sabbath are instituted. Human beings are not created to become victims or slaves for the Sabbath’s laws. The reason for the Sabbath’s laws is to protect people, to let people knowing that their bodies need to be rest and their souls need to be nourished by spiritual food. God is the Lord of Sabbath. Christ is God; therefore, he has a right to say that the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath.
It is not right when one understands God’s rest as to cease all His activities. If He acts such, all the universe’s activities shall also be ceased. From the substantial point, the act of creation is unceasing, and God is always at work as Jesus declares when He talks about keeping of the Sabbath: “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (Jn 5:17). The divine rest on the Sabbath isn’t meant an inactive God; but wants to emphasize the perfection of things which were perfected.
Moreover, there are people who work on the Sabbath without sin because they must work on that day as priests. If they don’t work, they can’t celebrate Mass for the faithful to attend.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We must not secularize the Sunday as the weekend to rest, to recreate or to do things which we have no time to do during weekdays.
– The center of the Sunday is the attending of Mass to praise, to bless and to thank God about all things He has done for us through creation and salvation.
– The Sunday is also the day for us to study and to meditate God’s word, to promote familial and social relationship.