Wellspring of Scripture


Year B: 9th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel: Mark 2: 23-3: 6


Todayís Gospel shows again the problems that Jesus posed for the authorities of His day. The issue in question is the purpose of the Sabbath.


The law governing the Sabbath had its origins in the ten commandments given to Moses (see First Reading) - but by the time of Jesus had become more and more complex. Rules governing the lighting of fires - precisely what counted as work and what did not - even the distance someone could walk on the Sabbath - all were laid down and carefully observed.


To the Pharisees, picking ears of corn was classed as work and so forbidden on the Sabbath - even if the disciples were hungry and this was all they had to eat. Jesus reminds them of an incident in which David bent the Law in order that he and his men could eat.


He highlights the fact that a law given for the good of Godís people was actually a burden to them. Instead of enjoying their day of rest and spending precious time in worshipping God - they were concerned not to transgress any of the additional rules imposed on the Sabbath.


The Sabbath was given for human creatures - not the other way around.


To make His point still further, Jesus goes into the synagogue and brings a man with a withered arm into the middle of the gathering. Then, He asks the simple question - is it against the law to do good on the Sabbath - or to save a life? Needless to say, His critics have no answer.


Jesus is angry that they are not prepared to reflect on the question - and so offers an answer that they must have suspected was coming: He heals the man.


The answer to the question is, of course, self-evident - and the healing of the man cannot be seen as doing evil on the Sabbath. But the reaction of the critics is not to think again - to reflect on the meaning of the Sabbath. Rather it is to see Jesus as a threat to good order - and to their position.


Even at this early stage of his Gospel, Mark makes clear that such confrontations led to Jesusí opponents to being the plots which were to lead eventually to His death.

What does it mean for me?


When have rules made to help people been abused?

How do you honour the Sabbath?

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