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Daily Devotional for July 20


July 20                                                              Mark 2:23-3:6

The need for Jesus and the disciples to gather food and eat
as they traveled from place to place was essential. Neither a
luxury nor a disrespect for tradition, it was merely a necessi-
ty of life for a traveling band that had no permanent home.
The Pharisees, however, were so preoccupied with religious
restrictions that they accused Jesus' disciples of sin when they
plucked grain on the Sabbath. Similarly, they sat in stony
silence in the synagogue when Jesus healed the man with the
withered hand on the Sabbath. No amount of persuasion or
explanation seemed to free them from their servitude to law
and tradition. Such enslavement enables people to avoid
responsible decisions for themselves and compassionate service
to others.

We are still not far from our religious ancestors in Israel. Social
prejudice and irrational fear of those who hold opinions dif-
ferent from our own still exist in our churches and com-
munities. And when it comes to justifying such prejudice and
fear, we are all too likely to hear a favorite verse from the Book
of Leviticus or the letters of Paul.

According to Jesus, religion, the Sabbath, and life itself are gifts
of God given for the benefit of humankind. When we become
willing slaves of legalism, we not only lose our freedom, but
we lose the power of shared kindness and respect as well.
Instead of being instruments for good, we become rigidly
separated from the companions with whom we are called to
live in fellowship, and ultimately even from God.

In a world where we still struggle to feed multitudes and to
heal persons of life-threatening disease, today's Gospel calls
us to examine our attitudes and behaviors in order to shed
legalistic positions and discover how we can gain greater
freedom. By ending our prejudices, by abandoning our fears,
and by surrendering our often vicious tools of control, we can
make of the Sabbath and every other day new days of freedom
for humankind. Only then will we learn to live, to be fed, and
to be healed.

From The Road to Emmaus - An inclusive devotional Edited by Joseph W. Houle

Emmaus House of Prayer - Washington D.C.

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