16 January. Tuesday of Week 2

Saint Fursa [Fursey], abbot and missionary(opt.mem.)

1st Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Samuel goes to Bethlehem and anoints Jesse’s youngest son, David, as king

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably! I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord sid to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Gospel: Mark 2:23-28

Jesus defends eating on the Sabbath, for Sabbath was made for our good

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 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 he gave some to his companions.” Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for human beings, and not humans for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”


Serving ourselves, or ministering life?

The Scriptures point to positive possibilities within what seem like very ordinary lives. Routine encounters with family and friends may seem humdrum to us. Yet they can hold the key to our peace and holiness in God’s sight. It was not David’s older, stronger brothers that God chose; it was the young lad himself, because of what God saw in him. For “the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Questios about our purpose in life are raised by today’s readings – a theme clearly and often raised in pope Francis’ homilies: Do I put my life actively at the service of others, seeking to serve them in the ways that modern people need, if they are to hear the Gospel? Am I appreciative of the potential in other people, and of my own, despite my limitations? Am I minister of life, delighting in all of its expressions, more appreciative than judgmental? How well do I incarnate the mercy principle stated by Jesus, that “The Sabbath was made for humans, and not humans for the Sabbath.”? Such questions were urgently raised by pope Francis, promoting a Gospel of Joy, and they invite us (priests especially) to ponder, are we ministering life?

Eating whatever we like

Jesus disputes with the Pharisees as to what people may or may not do on the Sabbath. The Jewish Sabbath, as you know is a Saturday. For the Pharisees, picking ears of corn and crushing them to eat them constituted work and was forbidden on the Sabbath. For Jesus, however, it was always legitimate to satisfy one’s physical hunger on the Sabbath, especially for people like himself and his disciples who were never sure where the next meal was going to come from.

Man-made traditions about the Sabbath were not taken by Jesus as the last word about what must be done or avoided. Rather, Jesus declares that he himself is Lord of the Sabbath. Sunday is now the Christian Sabbath. As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus tells us in today’s gospel that any work which serves the basic needs of others is always legitimate on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not so much the day when we do no work at all as the day when we try to do God’s work, the work of responding to the needs of others and the call they make on us.. [MH]

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