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The Truly Law

October 13, 2013

The Law for the Man

“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?  In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Our Lord gives us a teaching that has to do with all those trying to force Christians into a rigid, legalistic system, as if we were just machines or robots. In this case, Jesus warns us not to get caught up in the many laws, rules, precepts, customs, sayings and demands that are born from a spirit of little faith, uncertainty and fear. All they do is stand in the way of faith and the journey of a Christian in this life.

There is something much greater than any legalism in this life and that is the fulfillment of love of God and love of neighbor that Jesus teaches us. When the teachings of Jesus become mere traditions and laws, then we are not being true Christians since we are living in a manner that meets the requirements of a religion without having a faith relationship with God”.

 Mark 2:23-28

Jesus was preaching and suddenly it was time for lunch. The disciples had practically nothing with them. One of the usual ways to get food at that time was to gather ripe ears of grain and either rub them in one’s hands to hull them and eat them or to grind them on a stone to remove the flour and make some bread (which we would call bran bread today). Then, when they went from place to place, they had the chance to pick up the ears from the fields. The Jewish precepts of living said that anyone was allowed to pluck the ears as long as it was not with a sickle. But the biggest problem with this activity was that it could not be done on the day of rest because, somehow, this meant they were harvesting. Somehow they were working, and work was banned on the day of rest, which is Saturday for Jews. This was the interpretation of those people of yesteryear. The Pharisees, who were the teachers of the law, complained to Jesus. How could it be that his disciples tore ears on the Sabbath! It was a sin; they were breaking God’s law. In indignation, Jesus said: “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need?  In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

And then he added: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

What is the more important – to simply implement the law or to understand the spirit of the law so that we may fulfill it completely?

This reminds me of many parents who tell their children the things they need to do and when the child asks: ‘And why do I have to do this or that?’ the parents simply answer them: ‘Because I say so or because that is the case. Period!’, never offering any explanation. There is a big chance that the child will never learn why it follows the law and therefore they can never carry it out effectively. However, if you explain to a child that playing with knives, for example, is unsafe because there is a danger of cutting a finger- and maybe you can explain visually what would happen, for example, by cutting a fruit and you explain that it would hurt and would even be dangerous for the fingers-, it is likely that they will understand why they must follow the rules that parents want to impose on them. Next time, when they see the knives, they may also not be so attracted to them. Unfortunately, we humans only understand the rules of life once we have lived them out. So the saying goes: “Once bitten, twice shy.” And sometimes, we come to understand after living bitter experiences. It should not be so, for it is the church of the ‘communion of saints’ where we want to learn, live, witness and be held together during our life of faith.

We Christians also have laws – the laws of the Bible and the laws of the congregation, which are based on the Bible. On previous Sundays we spoke about God’s laws, the Ten Commandments and other commandments of God. I will take one of those laws that we have already examined as an example. I will use the Third Commandment as an example: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” That was the topic in this story. That is God’s law. The laws of God are to be fulfilled. Failing to obey a law is breaking it. The breaking of or implementing of a law has consequences. The consequences can be positive or negative for us. When laws are not taught well, it is very likely they will be misunderstood and therefore we may not want to apply them because they are not understood. What you do not understand, you do not accept, nor do you treasure it. But if we understand that the Sabbath (or day of rest) was made for our benefit, that Sunday is a day where God wants to bless us spiritually, where God wants to give us His Holy Spirit and His strength, – and that as Christians we need our spirit to be well in order to be live successfully and victoriously-, and because God is happy whenever He sees us in church because He realizes that we are showing our love to him through our obedience when we simply attend, praise, glorify and fear the name of God, you will certainly have a different take on that law.

If you really believe in God and are willing to obey Him, you will want to go to church because you want Him to see that you love Him, want Him to protect you, give you His favor and bless you. When we understand this, we will make every effort humanly possible to attend church. For this not only involves showing our love for Him, but it gives endless benefits to us. We therefore understand the essence of the law. If we cannot fulfill it one Sunday, it will not be because we do not want to but because there is a compelling reason that has stopped us from fulfilling it.

The laws of the Church, the laws throughout the Bible and the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, to the world are based on love for God and one’s neighbor. There are many who wonder and are tormented by uncertainty, whether or not this or that is or is not sin. To be able to respond quickly, there is a law that is very friendly and very easy to follow that was once mentioned by St. Augustine, a Father of the Church: “Love, and do what you will. If you keep silent, do it out of love. If you cry out, do it out of love. If you refrain from punishing, do it out of love.” The law of love should be the law that permeates all our other laws, which is the fundamental law of all Christians. We may say we can do whatever we want in this life as long as we seek to love God and do and will the good of our neighbor. We can do whatever we want as long as we do not disturb and harm to our neighbor. The person who fulfills this really will not need any laws or commandments. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,” (1 Jn 5:3)

The Sabbath was made ​​for man and not man for the Sabbath. This is a particularly harsh response to the Pharisees of that time. Each of the laws, even biblical, should serve to benefit the human being in line with what God wants for us. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Co 3:6) God wants His Spirit to manifest in us so that we are filled with His Spirit. To do this we must make room for the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our families and in our church. When the love of God and neighbor permeates our rules, the Spirit of God is pleased to dwell among us. We should give more room to the Spirit of God’s love than to laws written on paper. We have to think and be more considerate to people and their situation.

The Lord is asking us to not worry about forms, customs, the words of my aunt or my grandfather or my dad, or what people will say or what people think. The Lord is asking us to look at the things that are really important to our community. The Lord wants us to be true Christians; Christians that do not merely meet precepts, rituals and traditions, but find out the essence of God’s love. That’s the law you must filter through over all others. We have to be known also by our deeds and works, for our love and affection for each other, for our compassion and solidarity and ultimately for love demonstrated in practice. The Pharisees cared only about forms, legalism, traditions, rituals to show off, what people say and they were hypocrites. They were hypocrites because they did not show their faith in practical acts of love. They did not understand that when they were being loving towards their neighbor that they were also being loving to Him.

We are Christians and must we try every day to please God; we must not lose sight of this. Laws, traditions, customs, rites, liturgies, orders and statutes are very important as long as they help us to be better Christians every day and as long as they help us have greater communion with God and our neighbor. I must follow the God’s law in a manner that will help me pray more, go more to church, read the Bible more and love Jesus’ church and my neighbor more. If our laws, customs and traditions are bearing fruit in the church, then congratulations, they are welcome and will be preserved, but otherwise we should change them to allow the Holy Spirit to enable us to bear fruit.

When the Holy Spirit of God feels at home in a community, a church or a family, then miracles and the divine intervention of God are an everyday occurrence.

May the Lord enlighten us to understand that the only law that exists and that must be met is the law of love of God and neighbor. Amen.

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