In today’s Gospel story, the Pharisees are supposedly defending the law that the Sabbath was a day of rest, in accordance with the Third Commandment. What the disciples were doing though, was to provide food for their own hunger. The disciples weren’t rich men, and so we can probably surmise that they depended on the generosity of those with means who had been touched by Jesus’ message or ministry. The Law itself provided that grain in the fields that was not taken up by the first pass of the harvest was to be left in the field for the poor. But the Pharisees mostly didn’t care about the poor, so they wouldn’t have seen that application. But even worse than that, they didn’t see that Jesus was inaugurating a whole new Law – one that God always intended – one that provided for the needs of people rather than just the minutiae of the law.
So we have to hear this too. Because there is always the temptation to defend the rules instead of seeing how the rules apply to people. Even our own Canon law, with its many rules and regulations, provides that the most important part of the law is that it is to assist in the salvation of God’s people. The law is meaningless in and of itself. Law is there to help people on the way to salvation, to help people to know Christ, who is certainly greater than the temple, greater than the law. And so, whenever we’re tempted to bind ourselves with our own interpretation of the law or rules of the Church, we should instead submit ourselves to the Gospel, which is the only authentic interpreter of the Law. For disciples of the Lord, there is something greater than the temple here.