Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the Law of Moses, it was permissible for travelers to take fruit or wheat from vineyards or fields but only what they could eat and they could not take more with them (Deut. 23:24,25). This was because most travel those days was done on foot and this would be a gift that the people would offer to any traveler or passersby. God, through Moses, ensured that the weary travelers, would not die from starvation. So, in the case of the holy Apostles in Saturday’s Gospel Reading, the plucking and eating the grains of the wheat was not condemnable by the Law. But the Pharisees who opposed the teaching of our Lord found another opportunity to attack the Lord in their hope to discredit Him. They disassociated the fact that the plucking of the wheat was done for survival and they stressed only the fact that it was done on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath was the commanded day of rest. Therefore, in their view the plucking and the rubbing of the wheat constituted labor, and as such, it was forbidden on the Sabbath day.
What the Pharisees failed to take into account was that the Law of Moses was given to the chosen people to make their lives better, safer and easier to manage. The Commandments of God are very similar to streets signs. Street signs guide us and keep us safe on the road. It would be very difficult to find one’s way in a city without street signs. And it is just as difficult to navigate the spiritual life without the Commandments. Preventing the Apostles from eating of the wheat might have cost the life of one or more of the Apostles. The Gospel narrative does not tell us how long the Apostles had been without food. To show the Pharisees their error, our Lord used the example of King David who was and is much beloved (we still use the Book of Psalms, that he wrote, today in all of our Prayer Services). So if David, a Prophet, a man guided by God, ate of the bread offered to the Temple (and for the use of the priests only) and he also gave it to his companions in order to preserve his, and their lives, this should be sufficient to prove that the Law of Moses was not being interpreted correctly by the Pharisees.
The ultimate goal of the Commandments of God is the wellbeing and the physical and spiritual health of the people. For this reason, these same Commandments of God prescribe the Sabbath Rest (which for us Christians, we get two days Saturday and Sunday). The Sabbath Day’s commands rest. Christ told them that this rest was given to benefit man and not for man to make himself subservient of the Sabbath’s rest. The whole point is recuperating from a work week and to give Glory and Thanks to God, not to work harder in order to observe that same Sabbath.
May our Lord grant us discernment to understand and correctly apply His commandments in our lives so that we may not deviate from the therapeutic path to Salvation that Church offers in the Sacraments. Amen.
Fr. Simeon Pardalis