Lord Of The Sabbath: Mark 2:23-28

As he was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain. At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?” Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Jesus faces yet another question by the Pharisees; “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?” This time in His answer, he uses an example from scripture about David and his companions from I Sam. 21:2-7. Let’s take a look;

David went to Ahimelech, the priest of Nob, who came trembling to meet him and asked, “Why are you alone? Is there no one with you?” David answered the priest: “The king gave me a commission and told me to let no one know anything about the business on which he sent me or the commission he gave me. For that reason I have arranged a meeting place with my men. Now what have you on hand? Give me five loaves, or whatever you can find.” But the priest replied to David, “I have no ordinary bread on hand, only holy bread; if the men have abstained from women, you may eat some of that.” David answered the priest: “We have indeed been segregated from women as on previous occasions. Whenever I go on a journey, all the young men are consecrated–even for a secular journey. All the more so today, when they are consecrated at arms!” So the priest gave him holy bread, for no other bread was on hand except the showbread which had been removed from the LORD’S presence and replaced by fresh bread when it was taken away.

Now, exactly what does this have to do with the Sabbath? Let us see why Jesus ties these together.

First, Jesus addresses the issue of lawfulness. This is why He brings in the example of David and his companions. David’s dilemma was hunger. Jesus’ disciples were no doubt hungry too, picking the heads of grain an activity of “work,” and the Sabbath called for “rest.” Thus, the parallel is drawn, that King David did what was not “lawful” as well, when he and his companions were hungry. Jesus’ point is that sometimes, for the well being of others, the letter of the law may be broken, but the spirit of the law remains in tact. We see this principle taught throughout Jesus’ ministry. That our love and concern for others is second only  to the love we are to have for God.

To realize God’s love and mercy in our own lives means we share that love and mercy with others, especially in their time of need. If this happens on a Sabbath, would God be more pleased if we ignored our brothers need and worshiped and rested? Or would our help be considered and act of worship to God – showing His love toward others? Clearly, Jesus is teaching the latter.

This leads us to His second point; the issue of the Sabbath itself.

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. This is a very telling statement.

We, as humans, tend to look at rules as negatives and not positives. “Why can’t I do this?” and “Why can’t we do that?” “Why do I have to do it this way?” But let’s really look at this statement, even recalling Ex. 20:8, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”, and examine it in a positive light.

The sabbath was made for man… Man needs rest. He needs reflection and rejuvenation. It is good for his body, mind and spirit. Spiritually speaking, he also needs to take time to worship, adore and praise the Creator. For we see that God, even though not needing rest, provided an example of rest for us to follow. Again, it being for our good.

not man for the sabbath. God didn’t create us because the Sabbath needed us. It was because we needed the sabbath. We are creatures with very short memories. It wasn’t very long after walking through the Red Sea on dry land, that the people turned from God an made an idol, was it? What a mighty work by the hand of God, witnessed to, and so quickly forgotten. Sacred Scripture is filled with example after example of our forgetfulness, when it comes to the things of God.

So the Sabbath is an opportunity for us to rest, recall, and worship. If the Sabbath is kept to fulfill a law or a religious obligation, it is done in vain and therefore, worthless. This is the heart of Jesus’ message.

There is also a third point I’d like to bring up.

…the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

As we’ve seen from the very beginning of St. Mark’s gospel, Jesus has authority over….well, everything! His teaching, His healing of the sick, His casting out of demons, all demonstrated His authority. Jesus now states His authority over the sabbath.

Often, a question will arise, about the Sabbath. Should it be celebrated on Saturday, as in the Old Covenant or Sunday, as we do today? The answer is simple, really. It all begins with the authority of Jesus. The authority He has, He passed on the the apostles and His Church. Particularly, when they understood the meaning of Christ’s Resurrection, as a fulfillment of the Old Testament, a “new creation” and the “eighth day.”

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:


 The sabbath is at the heart of Israel’s law. To keep the commandments is to correspond to the wisdom and the will of God as expressed in his work of creation.


The eighth day. But for us a new day has dawned: the day of Christ’s Resurrection. The seventh day completes the first creation. The eighth day begins the new creation. Thus, the work of creation culminates in the greater work of redemption. The first creation finds its meaning and its summit in the new creation in Christ, the splendor of which surpasses that of the first creation.

 The day of the Resurrection: the new creation

Jesus rose from the dead “on the first day of the week.” Because it is the “first day,” the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day (he kuriake hemera, dies dominica)—Sunday:

We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day [after the Jewish sabbath, but also the first day] when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead.   (St. Justin, I Apol. 67: PG 6, 429 and 432)

 Sunday—fulfillment of the sabbath


Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ:

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord’s Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death.   (St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Magn. 9, 1: SCh 10, 88.)


The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship “as a sign of his universal beneficence to all.” Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

 If, indeed, Jesus hadn’t left His authority to His Church, the day of the Sabbath celebration couldn’t have been changed at all….period! Because as Jesus clearly stated, That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

So this week, let us realize the significance of the “new creation” and the “eighth day.” The Resurrection of Jesus, fulfills all the promises of the Old Covenant and ushers in the New Covenant, for Jesus is indeed the lord of the sabbath. He should be Lord of our lives – thoughts and actions. Realizing He left His Church with the authority to help us recall and celebrate “the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.” (CCC 2177)



Happy Birthday Humanae Vitae

Pope Paul VI’s encyclical turns forty today!

If you’ve never read it check out the link. It’s an insightful and prohpetical letter.

Here is the opening:

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.


Jesus Appoints a Pope: Part I

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi He asked His disciples, ”Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then He strictly ordered His disciples to tell no one that He was the Messiah.   Matt. 16:13-20  

  The conception of the Church. Jesus building and constructing the foundation of the apostles by His teaching. They, in turn, pass that teaching on to us through their teaching, preaching and writings.

 With Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, the foundation starts to take shape, as Jesus is the “capstone (cornerstone) of this foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph. 2:20). “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” is a statement of faith by Peter, to which Jesus acknowledges, For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Heavenly Father”. But it is also a statement of faith for the Church, and for us as individuals. For one can not profess what one does not believe (by this I mean professing both in word and deed, Ja. 2:22). 

Then, Jesus does something radical; He changes Simon’s name. Within scripture, when God gives a new name to a person (or a people) it marks a turning point. Something big was happening, a new responsibility, role or identity. Simon’s name meant, ”he is heard,” and he certainly was on this day, wasn’t he? For God heard his heart in his profession, before it was spoken aloud. And Jesus blesses him and changes his name to Peter.

 Petros in Greek and Kepha in Aramaic. I mention both names, because they are both used in scripture, in fact, it is the only name Paul uses for Peter. It also [helps] clarify the misunderstanding Protestants have with this passage. Petros is the masculine form of the Greek word for “rock”; Petra is the feminine form.

That is why there are different words used in the sentence in the Greek text, “And so I say to you, you are Petros and upon this petra I will build my church. Surely Matthew wouldn’t refer to Peter as feminine, would he? Whereas in the Aramaic there is no masculine/feminine form of the word Kepha. It would read, “And so I say to you, you are Kepha and upon this kepha I will build my church.” This also happens to be the language that Jesus and the disciples spoke at the time. So in essence, Jesus is saying, “You are Rock and on you, I will build My church.” This means that Peter would be the leader of the twelve, after Jesus returned to the Father (John 21:15-19) and through Peter, Jesus Himself would build His church. And we see examples of this all through the New Testament; Peter being the spokesman for the twelve, often the central figure relating to Christ. He is always named first. He was also first to proclaim the Gospel, the first to heal others and the first to receive the revelation to take the Gospel to the Gentiles (Mk. 8:29, Matt. 14:28-32, Lk. 6:12-16, Acts 2:14-40, Acts 3:6-7, Acts 10:9-48).

Jesus then promises that the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it [church],  a promise that stands to this day. Jesus’ “one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church” stood through the Roman persecutions, converted that pagan nation and was the sole Christian religion (that wasn’t heresy) for 1550+ years.