September 5, 2020

Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?

This accusation was one the Pharisees often used of Jesus. The observance of the Sabbath was a central law, one of the ten commandments. This ancient law was stressed, especially after the Exile. Living in a pagan world, they needed to share their faith with one another and to consecrate this one day a week to God in a special way, or they would have lost their faith. The Pharisees, in particular, had added all sorts of rules to what it meant to “observe the Sabbath.” Picking grain was classified as work by them, hence the accusation that the disciples were doing what was not permitted on the Sabbath.

Jesus’ response to show that their arguments had no foundation might not seem very persuasive to us. In Matthew’s version, however, Jesus’ response is more complete. He quotes the prophet Hosea: “Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice.” This serves as a reminder to us that external observances are meant to bring about an interior conversion, an ability to resonate with the need and pain of others (as Jesus did) so that we might be a source of grace and support to them.

As Christians, our holy day is Sunday, not the Sabbath. Today, with Covid-19 making it difficult, if not impossible, to celebrate the Eucharist on Sundays and keeping us confined to our homes, we should not consider ourselves excused from making Sunday truly a “day of the Lord.” I would suggest reading and sharing the Scriptures. Jesus knew the Bible almost by heart; what does the Bible represent for us? How do we deepen our union with God, especially on his holy day? How is Sunday different from any other day of the week?

Let Us Pray:

O Jesus, you rose from the dead on a Sunday, opening for us the gates of heaven. Help us to be especially grateful on this day for all you suffered to set us free.


Daily Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)
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About Paul J. Bernier, SSS

Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015. His most recent book is A Eucharistic Spirituality: Inspired by Saint Peter Julian Eymard – Apostle of the Eucharist, which he co-authored with Jim Brown.