15th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: Is 7:1–9
When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, laid siege to Jerusalem but they were unable to capture it.
When the news reached the house of David, “Aram’s troops are encamped in Ephraim,” the heart of the king and the hearts of the people trembled as the trees of the forest tremble before the wind.
Yahweh then said to Isaiah: “Go with your son A-remnant-will-return, and meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field.
Say to him,
Stay calm and fear not; do not lose courage before these two stumps of smoldering fire brands—the fierce anger of Rezin the Aramean and the blazing fury of the son of Remaliah. You know that Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted against Judah, saying: Let us invade and scare it, let us seize it and put the son of Tabeel king over it. But the Lord Yahweh says:
It shall not be so, it shall not come to pass. For Damascus is only the head of Aram and Rezin the lord of Damascus. Samaria is only the head of Ephraim and Remaliah’s son is only the lord of Samaria. Within fifty-six years, Ephraim will be shattered and will no longer be a people. But if you do not stand firm in faith, you, too, will not stand at all.
Gospel: Matthew 11:20-24
Jesus began to denounce the cities in which he had performed most of his miracles, because the people there did not change their ways, “Alas for you Chorazin and Bethsaida! If the miracles worked in you had taken place in Tyre and Sidon, the people there would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I assure you, for Tyre and Sidon it will be more bearable on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to heaven? You will be thrown down to the place of the dead! For if the miracles which were performed in you had taken place in Sodom, it would still be there today! But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
Picking ears of standing corn was not what the Pharisees had objected to, but the fact that it was done on the Sabbath. They considered this simple act of plucking a few heads of corn as a five-fold breach of the Law: reaping, threshing, winnowing, bearing a burden and preparing a meal! In a Zen monastery I once saw a piece of calligraphy that said, “If you break the law you will never attain freedom.” Grim, but true, I thought. Then, underneath I saw written, “If you keep the law you will never attain freedom.”
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