And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him--provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.
One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, "Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?" Jesus answered, "Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?" Then he said to them, "The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath."
When questioned about the actions of his hungry disciples on the sabbath, Jesus replied with simple common sense. They were plucking ears of grain, and eating them, an action normally permitted as one walked through a field of standing corn. He bolsters his defense of them by appealing to another time when David and his men were allowed eat what normally was reserved for priests. Proper observance of the Law allowed for serving the poor and the needy.
Jesus is "Lord of the sabbath" in a deeper sense. Colossians speaks of his winning reconciliation for us by dying in his mortal body. If it is to be real, peace is no cheap grace; it is not "easy come, easy go." Jesus died to obtain it for us. Someone must patiently suffer the effects of hostility and envy, so that others can see the evil of their deeds and be truly sorry for them. In Jesus, humble and patient on the cross, we find ourselves drawn to repudiate sin (2 Cor 5:21) so that he can present us to God "holy, free of reproach and blame."
What should people do or not do on the Sabbath? That is the question under dispute between Jesus and the Pharisees in today's gospel. For the Pharisees, picking ears of corn and crushing them to eat them constituted work and was forbidden on the Sabbath. For Jesus, however, it was always legitimate to satisfy one's physical hunger on the Sabbath, especially for people like himself and his disciples who were never sure where the next meal was going to come from. The laws of the Pharisees about the Sabbath were not binding on Jesus. Rather, Jesus declares that he himself is Lord of the Sabbath. Sunday is now the Christian Sabbath. As Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus tells us in today's gospel that any work which serves the basic needs of others is always legitimate on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is not so much the day when we do no work at all as the day when we try to do God's work, the work of responding to the needs of others and the call they make on us.