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Homly for Fri of the 15th Wk in Ordrinary Time, 21 July 2023, Mt 12:1-8

I saw a funny video a few days ago. One day a husband saw his wife sorting out the clothes for laundry and stopped her. He said, “Don’t touch it! Believe me dear, there is some magic happening in this house since we got married and started living in this house. You just leave the dirty clothes there on top of the washing machine and come back the following morning and you’ll see—everything will be fresh, clean and well-folded again!”

The wife was puzzled. The husband even took her to the living room and said, “Every night I watch TV and make a big mess on this sofa table with my snacks while watching Netflix movies. I just leave the mess there and the following morning, it’s all cleaned up and back in order! I tell you, somebody must be sneaking in our house every night to fix up our mess for the following day.”

Well, the following day, the wife was gone. The man called the police and reported that somebody must have abducted his wife, that it must have been the person who sneaked into their house every night to clean up his mess. Can some people be so stupid, you might ask? Well, Jesus is driving home precisely this point in our Gospel reading.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is criticizing the Pharisees for their narrow-minded understanding of the law. They were behaving like the ridiculous husband character in that video—who enjoyed his rest, totally unmindful of his wife who worked silently every night to make sure all the mess left by her husband was in order the following day.

Jesus even gives two funny examples himself: first, of David and his soldiers coming home hungry after defending the nation in battle and eating the bread of offering reserved only for the priests. Second, he asks if the priests who work in the temple on Sabbath day are violating the law. If he had lived in modern times, he would have applied the same question on priests, doctors and nurses and many other service providers who have to work even on Sundays.

In Arab countries, our OFWs who work as domestic workers attend Sunday Mass on Fridays and work on Sundays, because Friday is their only day off. Are they violating their Sabbath rest?

Or let’s just talk about every day—don’t we wake up and notice that the trash that we saw piling up in street corners the night before is gone and the streets are all swept clean? No, it’s not magic; it means some people had to stay awake all night so that we can enjoy a clean and orderly environment again, the following day. Can you condemn those unseen people as violators of the law if they did it on Sabbath day?

The next time you read the ten commandments again in Exodus 20 or Deuteronomy 5, try to read what the third commandment is really saying. It does not say, “Thou shall observe a day of rest.” No. What it is saying is, “Thou shalt KEEP HOLY your day of rest.” The point is not just to compensate your work with a day of rest. It is rather to consecrate it, to lift it up and find meaning in it as participation in God’s creative activity, especially by reflecting on it in the light of the Word of God.

It also says—“You have to make sure that your slaves, your workers, including your animals are able to enjoy a day of rest.” That Sabbath was instituted precisely as an act of social justice in favor of overworked people is often forgotten.

Something really goes wrong when we reduce the faith to a set of rules. We lose our spiritual common sense. Jesus circulated with people like the Galilean fishermen who worked even on Sabbath day in order to make some fresh fish available for people on their day of rest. What did Jesus do for people like them? Instead of telling them to stop working, instead of just reminding them of their religious obligation to attend Synagogue services because it was Sabbath, he mingled with them, sat on their boats and turned the sea shore into an instant Synagogue by engaging them in conversations about the word of God, yes, even while Peter was washing his nets.