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Dos and Don’ts
July 17, 2020
Love Over Fear
July 18, 2020

Homily for 17 July 2020, Friday of the 15th Week in Ordinary Time, Matthew 12:1-8

The issue in today’s gospel is about the law. Jesus’ disciples are accused by the Pharisees of violating the law, the third commandment about the Sabbath day. What did he do wrong anyway? Simple, they were hungry and they picked a few heads of grains of wheat and ate them.
In Tagalog we’d call it, “Pamatay gutom.” The third commandment says, “Thou shall keep holy the Sabbath day. “ No work was supposed to be done on this holy day. But, of course, they picked heads of grains and that’s harvesting and harvesting is working. Therefore, they violated the law. I imagined the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus probably said to them, “They were hungry and they just picked a few stalks of grain to relieve their hunger.” And the Pharisees would say. “Oh, excuse me, its Sabbath, that’s against the law. You’re not supposed to work on Sabbath day.”
This is just one of the many occasions that Jesus was questioned by people about the Sabbath. You know there was another occasion where he healed a man on a Sabbath day and he was also accused of breaking the law. And how did Jesus argue with them? He said, “Which one of you who has a sheep that falls into the pit on Sabbath day will not take hold of it and lift it out.“ Do you expect the owner to wait until after the Sabbath in order to save the poor sheep?
Oh, let’s make it more simple. Let’s say a father has a son and they go fishing by the lake. By the lake’s boardwalk there is a big sign that says, “Swimming not allowed.” But unfortunately, the son accidentally falls into the lake. So, is the father violating the law because he jumps into the lake and swims towards the boy to save him from drowning?
What takes priority, the law or the people for whom the law was established? Jesus is driving home precisely this point. That is why, his conclusion is, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” (Mat 12:8) In plain language, “The laws are created only to serve people.” The moment we forget this principle, we violate the purpose of the law.
You know, I have a little confession to make, when I hear people making a joke on the play of words between “lawyers” and “liars”, I do not laugh. I feel silently offended because I have a high regard for the legal profession, because I come from a family of lawyers. My late father was a lawyer, my two siblings are lawyers. I have one nephew and two nieces who are lawyers. And I have never known them as liars.
And I have also met a lot of good and exemplary lawyers in my life. They say the best lawyers are not legalistic. They are people-oriented. The legal profession, I believe, is not a matter of memorizing the law even if that is very important aspect of lawyering. It is rather more about caring for people’s human dignity, a sense of justice and fairness. It is about making sure that the poor, the uneducated and the disadvantaged are not taken advantaged of, following the principle that “those who have less in life should have more in law.”
My friends, it is dangerous when the laws are made and deliberately used as weapons against people. When they are used as tools for politics. When they are used for staying in power or for intimidating people. When that happens, we’re doomed. Why? Because we ourselves will tend to lose respect for the law. When people begin to get the impression that you can get away with murder anyway, with just the right political influence or connections, or if the price is right, you lose respect for the law.
You know, it has often been asked by people, how come, Filipinos are more law abiding citizens in other countries than in their own country. Could this be because we know that in our country the law tends to be optional? that very much depends on ones position in society? That the attitude of those who behave with impunity is –“What are we in power for, anyway?”
Jesus is very practical. He uses his common sense when it comes to the law. He summarized them into two: “You must love the Lord your God above all, and you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mat 22:37-39) And everything else is just commentary.


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