19 July, Friday – Master of the Sabbath

19 July 2019

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Exodus 11:10-12:14

Moses and Aaron worked many wonders in the presence of Pharaoh. But the Lord made Pharaoh’s heart stubborn, and he did not let the sons of Israel leave his country.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

‘This month is to be the first of all the others for you, the first month of your year. Speak to the whole community of Israel and say, “On the tenth day of this month each man must take an animal from the flock, one for each family: one animal for each household. If the household is too small to eat the animal, a man must join with his neighbour, the nearest to his house, as the number of persons requires. You must take into account what each can eat in deciding the number for the animal. It must be an animal without blemish, a male one year old; you may take it from either sheep or goats. You must keep it till the fourteenth day of the month when the whole assembly of the community of Israel shall slaughter it between the two evenings. Some of the blood must then be taken and put on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses where it is eaten. That night, the flesh is to be eaten, roasted over the fire; it must be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled, but roasted over the fire, head, feet and entrails. You must not leave any over till the morning: whatever is left till morning you are to burn. You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand. You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord. That night, I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, man and beast alike, and I shall deal out punishment to all the gods of Egypt, I am the Lord! The blood shall serve to mark the houses that you live in. When I see the blood I will pass over you and you shall escape the destroying plague when I strike the land of Egypt. This day is to be a day of remembrance for you, and you must celebrate it as a feast in the Lord’s honour. For all generations you are to declare it a day of festival, for ever.”

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Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus took a walk one sabbath day through the cornfields. His disciples were hungry and began to pick ears of corn and eat them. The Pharisees noticed it and said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath.’ But he said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God and how they ate the loaves of offering which neither he nor his followers were allowed to eat, but which were for the priests alone? Or again, have you not read in the Law that on the sabbath day the Temple priests break the sabbath without being blamed for it? Now here, I tell you, is something greater than the Temple. And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless. For the Son of Man is master of the sabbath.’

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“What I want is mercy, not sacrifice.”

It has come to my realisation that I had a lot of misunderstanding about the Catholic faith and that I needed to learn and study more for better understanding. Take for instance, the matter of sacrifice. It has been ingrained in us that we fast during Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain every Friday during Lent. Those are the ‘sacrifices’ that we make in order to prepare us for Easter. There are other instances of ‘sacrifices’ that Catholics do, as a ritual, as a preparation, as a practice. For example, abstaining from food at least one hour before receiving the Holy Eucharist.

I never truly understood why some of these rituals existed. In my mind, God is not so petty to care about whether I ate before receiving Him. Why should I let man’s rules override God’s rules? For surely, it is Jesus himself who gave us the Eucharist, His body for us to eat. He never said to only receive Him one hour after a meal. I struggled with these seemingly innocuous questions.

Upon further reading and speaking with fellow Christians, it dawned on me that it is not so much the ritual that our Lord is after. It is what is in our hearts and minds that truly matters. If I fasted all the while complaining about it, then the fasting is for naught because my heart is not in the right place. I would not be truly reverent about receiving our Lord. For if I did revere Him and worship Him, I would make sure that I was well-prepared to receive Him. I would make sure that I am clean and presentable to be in the presence of a King. Fasting before a meal is a token of that preparedness. But more importantly, is my willingness and intentions of doing so. My intentions should be pure and whatever needs to be done is to be done with joy instead of complaints.

Brothers and sisters, this seems so simple yet, when we are tired, stressed and demoralized, it is so easy to fall into the fray and become disgruntled at the most straightforward task. In my daily life, when I am tight on time and others place additional and unexpected demands on me, I become disgruntled and silently seethe inside, all the while performing the task unwillingly. This is not what our Lord wants. He wants us to be joyful, to be excited and eager to receive Him. When we prepare to receive Him in the Eucharist, we should prepare ourselves as if for a wedding banquet, a most solemn but joyous event. Surely we wouldn’t attend the wedding of a friend ill-prepared and inappropriately dressed; so why would we attend the banquet of a King without being prepared?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Winnie Kung)

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us to prepare our hearts, our minds and our souls to receive You in the Eucharist. Grant us the grace to be humble, simple and pure in our thoughts, words, and intentions, so that we may be prepared to receive our King.

Thanksgiving: Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us Jesus, the Bread of Life, at every Mass.

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