Your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath. 

It’s not uncommon to read in the Gospels about how a group of Pharisees began arguing with Jesus—like what we have in today’s reading.   After reading stories like this, it might be easy to write these people off as enemies of Christ.   But is this true?   What do we know about the Pharisees?

For one, they were mostly laypeople who took their Jewish faith seriously.   They volunteered to take on themselves the extra requirements of a priest’s way of life. Even their name—“Pharisee”—comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to separate,” showing their desire to be devoted totally to God.

They also saw themselves as teaching a moderate approach to the Mosaic Law.   Their way of life was probably more accessible to the average Jew than joining the more extreme groups of the day: the Sadducees, the Essenes, or the Zealots.

Finally, they deeply valued many of the same things that Jesus valued: the Scriptures, holiness, God’s chosen people. Theologically speaking, they were closer to Jesus than the other sects.   Some Pharisees even followed him.   But others saw him as a threat to the Jewish faith and perhaps to their own position.   In part, you might say that their proximity to Jesus led to conflict.

The same can be true sometimes for us as well.   Somehow, it can be hardest to remain at peace with the people who are closest to us, especially our family members.   We know each other so well that we can overreact to trivial things and create rifts in our families.   We also tend to have high expectations of each other—because of our love—and we get frustrated when these expectations aren’t met.

According to Mother Teresa, “It’s easy to love the people far away.   It’s not always easy to love those close to us.”   God wants to teach us how to love the people with whom we have so much in common.   He is offering grace to help us to listen and understand them before we jump to conclusions, make snap judgments, or bring up old wounds.

Is there a family member whom you’re having a hard time with?   Ask God to bless them and bring the two of you closer together.   Then, look for one opportunity to show that person your love.

word among us