3/11.1 The greatness and dignity of the human person.
Jesus was going through a cornfield. The disciples plucked some of the ripe ears and rubbed the chaff off the grains between their hands so as to eat them. It was a Sabbath day. The Pharisees wanted the Master to rebuke his disciples, for – according to their reasoning – it was not licit to do even that amount of work on the Sabbath. Jesus came to the defense of his disciples and of the Sabbath rest itself. He does this by turning to Sacred Scripture: Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered into the house of God, when Abiathar was High Priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave to those who were with him. And he said to them, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Then he went on to present them with a still deeper reason: The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath. Everything is ordered in the direction of work for Christ and the individual: even the Sabbath rest.
The bread of the Presence consisted of twelve loaves which were placed each week on the table of the sanctuary, by way of paying homage to the twelve tribes of Israel. The loaves that were removed from the altar were reserved for the priests who performed the ceremony.
Abiathar’s conduct was an anticipation of the doctrine that Christ teaches in this gospel passage. Already in the Old Testament, God had established an order in the precepts of the Law in such a way that lesser precepts should give way to those of a higher order. This explains how a ceremonial precept, as was this of the loaves, should give way to a precept of natural law. The precept of the Sabbath had to yield precedence to the basic needs of subsistence.
The Second Vatican Council is inspired by this passage to emphasize the value of the person above that of economic and social development. After God comes man; any such consideration intervening would introduce real disorder in human affairs, as unfortunately we see happening frequently.
The most sacred Humanity of Christ casts a light that enlightens the being and the life of each of us, because it is only in Christ that we can recognize the totally immeasurable value of a man. ‘When you wonder about the mystery of yourselves,’ Blessed John Paul II said to a gathering of young people, look at Christ, who is the one who gives meaning to our lives. It is He alone; no other being can give meaning to our existence, and this is why we cannot give a definition of man taking as our starting point inferior created realities, and still less man’s labor, his production, the material result of his efforts. The greatness of the human person derives from the spiritual reality of his soul, his divine filiation, his eternal destiny, all of which he has received from God. This places him above the whole of created nature. The dignity and immense respect that he merits are granted to him at the moment of his conception, and are the foundation of the right to the inviolability of life and our veneration for motherhood.
The most important title bestowed on human dignity is that of being the only reality of visible creation that God has loved for itself, creating it in his own image and likeness and raising it to the order of grace. Furthermore, man assumed a new value after the Son of God, through his Incarnation, took on our nature and gave his life for all men: propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis. Et incarnatus est. This is why we are interested in all the souls around us: there isn’t a single soul that remains outside Christ’s love. We should not withhold our respect and consideration from a single person. We should look around us, at the people we see and speak to each day, and consider in God’s presence whether in fact this is the case, whether we do show that appreciation and have genuine veneration for others.