Man was Made for God; God was Not Made for Man

The ridiculous Pharisaic interpretation of the Law of Moses highlights the mistake that man makes when he replaces God with creatures.

Newsroom (17/06/2024 22:25, Gaudium Press) There comes a certain moment in life when two paths open up before us: to make into an idol that which is relative – be it career, money, or social relationships – or to embrace the true Absolute, who is God, confessing our contingency in relation to Him. This is what maintains the health of the soul, and even physical health…

In the supernatural realm, the more I love, the more my appetite expands to unimaginable dimensions. So it was with Our Lady, in whom the fire of divine love was no longer proportionate to this earth, and She passed from this life to the next.

At the opposite extreme, when someone removes God from the centre of their thoughts and affections and takes a creature as an absolute, they lose their balance; their heart becomes insensitive to God, their intelligence dulls and they apply themselves solely to what is concrete and material. The insatiable gluttony for glory, for satisfying personal vanity, for drawing attention to oneself, for ruling, for being praised and applauded, while providing fractional happiness, ends up introducing a principle of spiritual illness into the soul which, sooner or later, will result in frustration. It will happen to him as it did to St. Peter walking on the sea: because he was thinking of himself, he began to sink in the rough waters (cf. Mt 14:30)

This is what we see reflected in the Gospel for the 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the attitude of the Pharisees towards Our Lord Jesus Christ. They were preoccupied with the Law and forgot to look at God, before whom they stood! Why? Because complying with the precepts favoured them, since it guaranteed them status and gave them a basis for being the first in society. Therefore, it was not even the Law that they placed at the centre, but themselves! It is a typical case of spiritual absolutism that Jesus is going to chastise, using His Divine Word with violence.

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Worshipping the Sabbath or worshipping the Lord on the Sabbath?

“Jesus was passing through some wheat fields on the Sabbath. His disciples began plucking ears of corn as they walked’ (Mt 2:23).

The Gospel presents us with the poetic scene of Our Lord Jesus Christ walking through a wheat field with the Apostles, who were in need: they had no food. The Divine Master was travelling from one village to another, preaching and healing everyone, and His disciples, as they were constantly around Him, being trained in His school, found themselves surrounded by crowds and did not even have time to eat (cf. Mk 3:20; 6:31). It was difficult for those travelling on foot to carry provisions and sometimes they forgot to do so (cf. Mk 8:14).

In these circumstances, it was legitimate – and even permitted by the Law itself – to use something in moderation when crossing a field, without causing harm to the owner of the property. If it was a wheat field, the ears could be picked without using a sickle and threshed by hand (cf. Deut 23:25-26). Commonly eaten in the Middle East, whole, uncooked wheat is a complete food, as it contains substances that are lost when white flour is produced. Chewing these grains relieved the torment of hunger and gave them enough vigour to continue on their journey, covering many kilometres.

When confronted with Christ, you can have dislike or the desire to follow Him…

Then the Pharisees said to Jesus, ‘Look, why do they do on the Sabbath what is not permitted?’ (Mt 23:24).

The Sabbath, as stated in this Sunday’s first reading (Deut 5:12-15), was a holy day, that is, ‘dedicated to the Lord’ (Deut 5:14), and therefore every Israelite had to rest and refrain from work. However, the Pharisees and scribes had added various rules that were not included in the Law of Moses, including the prohibition of 39 tasks.[1] While the Law commanded rest on the seventh day, ‘even when it is time to plough and to reap’ (Ex 34:21), for the strict rabbinical criteria, harvesting a few ears of corn or even a few grains was already a violation of the Sabbath.[2] The Apostles did this in the same way as the Lord.

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Seeing the Apostles do this, the Pharisees were horrified, when in reality it was entirely normal. Deep down, their difficulty had its origins well before these events and was not against the disciples, but against the Master… By accusing them, they were criticizing Him – even though they did not have the courage to say so directly – implying that He needed to take measures to ensure that His followers didn’t commit such an offence.

Irreconcilable hatred between good and evil

Let us make no mistake: when we set out to do good, some will thank us – weakly, most of the time… – and others will hate us, with a virulence that is much greater, comparatively speaking, than the recognition of the former. What is the reason for this hatred?

Let us think about Our Lord: it was not because He healed the man with the withered hand or because He broke the Sabbath that the Pharisees and Herodians wanted to kill Him. Such was His divine action of presence that, when He manifested Himself in public, He divided the fields. Those who accepted the graces of faith He brought immediately believed; those who rejected them immediately hated Him too.

In fact, whenever someone raises an objection against the good, they show that they are condescending towards evil, and no one can understand those who enter the path of evil… Mystery of iniquity! In this irreconcilable hatred there is a sin against the Holy Spirit – impugning the known truth[3] – which ‘will never be forgiven’ (Mk 3:29). It is a total rejection of Truth, of Goodness, of Mercy in essence, that is, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and therefore hatred of God. In the face of this ill-will, logical arguments are of no use, nor can the magnificent éclat of virtue convince.

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What happens to Our Lord and His Mystical Bride also happens to those who belong to them through Baptism: the world will see in us a ray of Christ’s divinity and, even today, He will produce irritation in those who do not believe and enthusiasm in those who do. As Jesus himself proclaimed, He came to select and choose, to save and sanctify (cf. Mt 10:34-35; Lk 10:16). He remains a stone of scandal until the end of time.

In the struggle for good, let us know how to deal with evil

In the Gospel for this 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Our Lord shows how those who take the side of good must be wise, clever and sagacious, and must never fall asleep so as not to fall into the snares of evil; on the contrary, they must always leave it in a bad position. This is a lesson to be emulated! Let us learn to deal with evil like the Divine Master, understanding that it is an unyielding adversary, capable of reaching the ultimate consequences, that is, leading us to martyrdom, like Jesus.

When we are misunderstood and persecuted for our love of justice, let us accept it with resignation and joy, because we are drawing closer to Our Lord. In the face of the Pharisees’ hardness of heart, He showed anger and sadness. This must be our attitude of soul: indignation at the delirium of opposing God and pity that inspires us to pray for those who persecute us.

Extract, with alterations, from:

CLÁ DIAS, João Scognamiglio. The unpublished Gospels: commentaries on the Sunday Gospels. Città del Vaticano-São Paulo: LEV-Instituto Lumen Sapientiæ, 2014, v. 4, p. 123-141.

[1] Cf. SHABAT. M 7, 2. In: BONSIRVEN, SJ, Joseph (Ed.) Textes rabbiniques des deux premiers siècles chrétiens. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1955, p.160.

[2] Cf. SHABAT. C.VIII, 10a. In: GUGGENHEIMER, Heinrich Walter (Ed.). The Jerusalem Talmud. Second order: Mo’ed. Tractates Šabbat and ‘Eruvin. Berlin-Boston: W. de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, 2012, p.272.

[St. Thomas Aquinas, op. cit., II-II, q.14, a.2.

Compiled by Sandra Chisholm

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