Personalize the Church


In the Gospel reading today the disciples of Jesus are picking grain and in so doing breaking the Mosaic Law; that is, one should not do any type of work during the Sabbath. This was made evident by the Pharisees who saw this and questioned Jesus about the disciples behavior. Jesus in reply pointed to the fact that David had gone into the area of the Holy Temple and was given the showbread to eat by the Priest. Jesus makes this point to demonstrate that David, by law, was not allowed to enter into the Holy Place, but due to an extreme need, was given the bread by the Priest, and God did not see it as sin, nor breaking the law. Likewise, the picking of grain on the Sabbath is necessary—for food is an essential part of human living.

Jesus is not encouraging us to become law-breakers, or to discredit the law in any way. Rather he is asking us to look at the law differently; that is, laws are in place for the betterment of man; they are not in place for the sake of the law itself. St. Paul clearly outlines this idea in his epistles, where he demonstrates that the Law that was given to the Jewish people brought forth a level of obedience and “right living.” In other words, it modifies our behavior to become a better person. But it could not “fully” change us; or rather transform us into a new person. Finally, Christ came and gave himself for us as a ransom so that we can become “new.” Christ became the fulfillment of the law. Now those who accepted Christ were no longer under the law but under Christ. Christ becomes our law.

This is the point that Christ is attempting to make: the law that prohibited entrance to the Holy Place (other than Priests) was in place to promote obedience, not as a “statement” that whatever is there is not accessible to the common Jewish man or woman. The showbread was an offering to God but was accessible to man as well.  With Christ and His Church the bread that is offered as a sacrifice to God is accessible to all believers. Indeed, the Priest is the only person allowed on the Step of the Altar but what is “present” in the “presence” of God is given to all. Just as David went into the temple and ate the “showbread” so also we eat the bread of life—Jesus Christ—His Body and Blood.

For the Church, there can be many types of laws such as, how to fast, how to take communion, how to act in church, etc. Such laws can be pressed down upon the believers via the deacons, priests/bishops but if we don’t “own” it ourselves, then in the end, the church will only be a set of laws to follow. King David shows us that he wanted to make what was in the Holy Place his own. Likewise, what is in the Altar, and what is asked by the Church, must be “personalized.” Without this mentality, we will never make the Orthodox faith “real” and “personal.” It will always remain something that is in the Altar (holy place) that Priest partakes in.