Cornfield controversies- Friday, 15th week in ordinary time- Matthew 12: 1-8
The relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees reaches a flashpoint in chapter twelve; so much so that by verse fourteen they have made up their mind to “destroy Him”. Jesus had no axe to grind against the Pharisees, He just came so that all would do the will of His Father in heaven (verse 50), and that included the Pharisees.
Somehow the Pharisees saw His presence as a threat to their beliefs and way of life. Jesus saw their practice of the faith as a yoke enslaving people. Jesus was not anti-Torah or anti-Sabbath; He just challenged their interpretations of the Sabbath when it evolved into nothing more than “mountains hanging by a hair, for there is very little scripture and more rules” (JBC).
Ironically the Old Testament, especially the First five books of the Law, have just one thing to say about the Sabbath; keep it holy (Exodus 20: 8- 11). The Rabbis seemed unhappy with such a basic law and found it necessary to specify thirty nine actions as forbidden on the Sabbath. Amongst them were reaping, winnowing, threshing and preparing a meal. But every law has an exception and this was no different. Humanitarian grounds exempted one from these actions on the Sabbath. Saving a life took precedence over keeping the law.
The narrative in today’s Gospel takes place on the Sabbath. Jesus and His disciples walked down the thin narrow strips between the cornfields, which were considered a right of way and it is there that hunger pangs kick in; it is here that the controversy takes root.