17 July, 2020. Friday of Week 15
1st Reading: Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22
King Hezekiah is cured of illness; as a sign of full health God turns the sun’s rays backward
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to the Lord: “Remember now, O Lord, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city.
Isaiah had said, “Let them take a lump of figs, and apply it to the boil, so that he may recover.” Hezekiah also had said, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?”
Responsorial: from Isaiah 38
R./: You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die
I said, I must go away
In the noontime of life I must depart!
I am consigned to the gates of the nether world
for the rest of my years. (R./)
I said, I shall see the Lord no more
in the land of the living.
No longer shall I behold my fellow men
among those who dwell in the world. (R./)
My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent,
is struck down and borne away from me;
You have folded up my life, like a weaver
who severs the last thread. (R./)
For you, Lord, my heart will live;
for you gave me back my spirit.
You cured me, kept me alive,
changed my sickness into health. (R./)
Gospel: Matthew 12:1-8
Disciples may eat on the Sabbath, for Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. God desires mercy more than sacrifice
As Jesus went through the grainfields on the sabbath, his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests. Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath the priests in the temple break the sabbath and yet are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”
Choosing an authentic lifestyle
The Pharisees in Christ’s day cared more about legal regulations than on the basic purpose and meaning of religion. This made them suspicious of Jesus and sharp, and led them to many verbal clashes with him. As he and his hungry disciples walked through the fields on a Sabbath day, they began to pluck the heads of corn and eat them. This was not stealing, since the corn was standing free and unfenced, and farmers were encouraged to leave some portion for the poor at the edge of each field (Lev 19:9). However, in the eyes of strict observers it violated the prohibition of all work on the Sabbath, and so they complained about it.
Jesus did not reject the traditional practices that had developed, insofar as they fostered a good quality of life. But he countered the objectors on their own grounds by citing biblical passages about David and referring to the work of priests on temple duty. The Scriptures, he says, do not endorse the strict interpretation made by the Pharisees. For if God “wants mercy, not sacrifice,” then the Sabbath is better celebrated by affirming life than by ritual; indeed, life gives ritual its true meaning. The people in the temple, like David or the priests, are more important than the temple itself, so the disciples could act as they did for the sake of life. Since Jesus interpreted the Sabbath regulations so freely, then the later church concluded that he was “Lord of the Sabbath.” Similarly, the same early church changed the Sabbath celebration from Saturday to Sunday.
Isaiah also promotes authentic living. At his request, God heals King Hezekiah, who had been expected to die, and by turning back the shadow of the sun proves that Hezekiah will again go to the temple for prayer. Whether we live or die, are in the bloom of health or suffer from some illness, God wants life to be celebrated, and eventually to grant us eternal life in the heavenly Sabbath.