Conundrum of Conscience

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you could not decide what was the right things to do? What is the expression, “Dammed if you do, or dammed if you don’t”? Last week I was in a conversation that involved the question of what to do when a street person asks you for money.

For the moment let’s ignore arguments like, “all street panhandlers actually drive luxury cars and pull down 7 figure salaries begging at traffic lights” and let’s just talk about question of “do we” or “don’t we” give them money. On the one hand we can assume that they are not very good at managing their affairs, after all they are on the streets. But on the other hand, who are we to judge, we can assume that they have not chosen to be on the streets and there must be a “back story” somewhere.
What do we do? Jesus did say that when ever you do unto the least of my brother so you do unto me. There could not be many people consider least than these people.

Maybe the problem is that we are speaking in too hypothetical terms. We don’t have any traffic lights here in Crested Butte so there is not much chance of running into someone begging for money at the stop signs at the 4 way.

So, what is a better example? What about that neighbor that really annoys you? He, or she, really annoys you. The person is not very nice, actually to your way of thinking the person is down right mean. But we are called to be nice to them. You know for a fact that if you are nice to them it will do no good. As a matter of fact, in the past the times that you were nice the person just acted nastier. Does it even make sense to try? Sure, we are called to love that person as Christ loves us but, you got to admit Jesus never met anyone like that person. Or maybe He did.

In today’s gospel we hear a story of a conundrum of conscience. A story of a clear need and a clear law. The apostles were hungry. They had not eaten all day, it was hot, and they still had a long way to go, and they were walking through a field of grain. So, they snapped some off and popped them in their mouth. No big deal, and after a handful or two they were not so hungry any more.

But it was a big deal, harvesting anything on the sabbath was clearly forbidden. Work of any kind, or the appearance of work of any kind was expressly forbidden. And remember they Jewish people were a people strictly governed by laws. Even today, those following a strict observance of the sabbath will hire a non-Jew to follow them around turning on and off appliance, lights and other things. So, it would have better for the apostles to go hungry than to pick grain. “when the Pharisees say this they said to (Jesus); See your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the sabbath.”

To their concerns Jesus responded by quoting scripture and giving examples that were all very compelling and at the very end gave the most interesting justification of all. He said, “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”. That was it, right there. The reason for not harvesting on the Sabbath was so that you would not be distracted from your homage to the Lord, but he was right there. Instead of complaining all that they had to do was turn to Him and face Him. The answer is so simple that it is almost comical.

It is like the other examples; the very essence of God is Love. We honor the will of God when we show love. That’s it. That may not answer whether you are to hand over your spare change or not but you have to show that individual love. It may not answer the question of what you do to help that neighbor to be less annoying, but it demands that you show that person love.

The gospel antiphon said; “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord, I know them and they follow me.” The voice of our Lord is one of love. We actually do know that, all that we have to do is to follow that voice.

MT 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

July 15, 2022

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