NINTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

All Methods can be Used to Help us Walk in Righteousness

First Reading ( Deut 5:12-15 ) : Observance of the Sabbath
Second Reading (2 Cor 4:6-11 ) : The strength to bear witness comes from God
Gospel ( Mk 2:23-3:6 ) : On the Sabbath the disciples plucked the grain and a man's withered hand was healed.
Chinese classics:
- “Wake up at dawn; sweep and clean the courtyard. Be neat and tidy inside and out.”(1)
- “The progress of studies comes from hard work and is retarded by frivolity”(2)
- “Peoples' livelihood depends on diligence. If there is diligence, there will not be shortage.”(3)
-“Worries and labour can strengthen a country; pleasure and idleness can kill a person” (4)
- “He (Confucius) is a simple man who in his eager pursuit of knowledge forgets his food, who in the joy of its attainment forgets his sorrow, and who does not perceive that old age is coming on.”(5)

The Pharisees said to Jesus , “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" … He said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."…. Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" ( Mk 2:24-3:4 ) After directing the question to the Pharisees, Jesus immediately cured the man with a withered hand. And it was the Sabbath day! “They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the Sabbath”(See Mk 3:2 ) Should a person cure illness or do a good deed on the Sabbath? Did Jesus obey the rules or was he one to break down rules and oppose human traditions? In today's world, how should we regard rules and traditions?

The .Sabbath was a holy day of rest. As stated in today's first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy “Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you or your son or your daughter…so that your male and female slaves may rest as well as you. ((Deut 5:12-14).The Jews took their laws very seriously. The Law played an important role in the running of family life and the nation. Some Jews even believed that the Law had existed in Heaven before it was promulgated on earth, and so was eternal and unchangeable. Therefore, the Law was sacred and no one should modify or change any of the regulations. Among the laws, the people paid special attention to the third of the Ten Commandments. Besides strictly observing obvious statutes that had been laid down in the Old Testament, for example, no chopping wood, lighting fires, etc, they had added more to the list, such as prohibiting untying a knot, clapping hands, cleaning dust from one's clothes, etc.

Listing some of what seems like rather foolish prohibitions of the Jews doesn't suggest that there is anything wrong in it or that we should not keep the Sabbath Day of Rest holy. Actually, Jesus was a man who kept the Law. His parents had him circumcised and offered in the temple shortly after birth as the Law required. When he was twelve years old he went with his parents to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and later received baptism from John the Baptist. He paid taxed and shortly before his Passion solemnly celebrated the feast of Passover. He told his followers that he had come not to abolish the Law but to perfect it and restore it to its original usefulness, meaning, purity and glory.

Actually, to observe the Sabbath as a day of rest is a good requirement. The spirit of the day is to remind us not to endlessly exploit the earth's natural resources in the name of work. Human beings should live in harmony with nature, which is the friend, not enemy, of human beings. We should not be working at commercial enterprises that enlarge the gap between the poor and the rich. Making good use of the Sabbath day of rest, we should put work aside, even forget it for a bit, and give some time to the more important things of life: one's own spiritual development, ( prayer, reading, rest and recreation) and harmonious relations with others, (communal worship, family life, etc.). In this way we grow in the appreciation and enjoyment of life.

Chinese people believe in industry and thrift. They are proud of physical labour. Chu Hei in his Maxim's on Running a Family Properly openly taught people to “Wake up at dawn; sweep and clean the courtyard. Be neat and tidy inside and out”
Hon Yu's key to studying was “The progress of studies comes from hard work and is retarded by frivolities.” In Tso Chuan it was stated, “People's livelihood depends on diligence. If there is diligence, there will not be any shortage.” Au Yeung Shou also said, “Worries and labour can strengthen a country; pleasure and idleness can kill a person.” In Chinese tradition, we look down on those who ‘do not use their four limbs and cannot distinguish the five major grains.’ Because Confucius led an industrious life, he could proudly tell others that he was a man who “in his eager pursuit of knowledge forgets his food, who in the joy of its attainment forgets his sorrows, and who does not perceive that old age is coming on.” (Confucian Analects, Book VII Shu R, Chapter 18) These are excellent traditions.

Our ultimate goal in life should not be directed to work alone. We should work, even work hard, and we also should enjoy the reward of our labour. The Jews’ observance of the Sabbath day was and is a unique phenomenon among all religious practices. It originally was very meaningful, as it was a Day ‘for the people’, a ‘family day,’ ‘a religious day.’ If that is the case, then the Sabbath was established for the good of people, and was not so that people would live for the sake of the Sabbath, which is what Jesus emphasized.

In the same way, laws are devised for the benefit of human beings. They are there to prevent people from becoming careless and committing wrong. They help us walk along the straight path of good. rather than bring harm to ourselves or others. But if laws becomes legalistic, with too many rules and regulations for their own sake, then they becomes a burden and obstruct the good of human beings.

The spirit of the law should help us to be fully alive, but if it becomes too meticulous it will kill people. Paul warned us saying, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6 ) Rulers and ruled need to remember this.

The New Testament has laws and rules that Jesus asks of us. They are the laws of love , summarized in Jesus' new commandment of love. This law that requires us to love God and all others demands of us to observe it from our hearts. The final outcome of this is true freedom, the freedom of the children of God and the obtaining of eternal life.

(1)黎明即起,灑掃庭除,要內外整潔。
(2)業精於勤、荒於嬉。
(3)民生在勤,勤則不匱。
(4)憂勞可以興國,逸豫可以亡身。
(5)發奮忘食、樂以忘憂,不知老之將至。

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