At that time 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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Hunger. It isn’t the same for everyone. In this Gospel account, the Pharisees hunger for the law. Their bellies are full but their rules must be satisfied. Rules inform the difference between righteous and sinner, between “us” and “them.” They seek stability, which is not a bad thing. However, they have not recognized the stability they seek has led them to static rigidity.
The disciples seek sustenance. Do we find it interesting that those closest to Jesus feel hunger? Following Jesus, doing what Jesus does, loving who Jesus loves is hard work and can leave one famished. Why didn’t Jesus just multiply some loaves and fish and feed them? Instead, Jesus walks with his friends through a field of grain where they are able to feed themselves. Sustainability may be questioned from time to time, but mature disciples know where and how to find food.
Like the Pharisees and the disciples, I might focus on my own hunger and ask what it is that I seek: stability or sustainability. Yet, the key of this story is the revelation of Jesus’ hunger. Jesus hungers for Sabbath. Sabbath is space and time to realize what is needed in my lifeworld is the holy embedded within. The fruit of that place is mercy. Jesus’ hunger demands radical courage and always pushes me to the streets.
—Carol Ackels is director of the Ignatian Spirituality Institute in Dallas. She serves as retreat director of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius offered in various formats, and is co-author of Finding Christ in the World, a twelve week Ignatian retreat.
Jesus, our friend
We struggle with
the mixing of justice and mercy,
You do not.
Your cry of protest,
is a word of grace.
Give us radical courage to hear
Your cry for mercy,
so that we may know justice,
as you did.
Please share the Good Word with your friends!