One Sabbath while Jesus was going through the cornfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, ‘Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?’ Jesus answered, ‘Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?’ Then he said to them, ‘The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.’— Luke 6:1-5
It’s September! Summer weather will be with us for a while yet, but we’ve only had 20 days of 110°F or over (compared to 50 for last year). We’ve had more rain than all of last year’s monsoon, and there is a possibility of more to come. Halloween decorations (as well as fall ones) are up in the stores, which assures me the year is moving on. While most of the trees around here don’t turn color, some do have leaves that fall – eventually, even if it’s Christmas Day!
September also reminds me that the time for seasonal fruits and vegetables to change. I know it isn’t the strawberry season, but I can still get them in the store if I really crave them. I saw some mincemeat in a jar at the store the other day, which reminds me I can now have tarts whenever I want to make them. It’s time for Glade and Febreze to start pushing their fall and winter scents to make up deficits (and cover others) in our homes. And it’s time to start thinking of harvesting grains and the like that will be ripening more by the day.
The story of Jesus going through the cornfield reminded me of September, even though I’m a few miles from the nearest cornfield, which will soon be a Halloween maze. Corn is always a welcome food, boiled, grilled, creamed, or used in succotash or cottage pie. It’s best when it’s fresh, and people in the store rummage through the bins of unshucked corn, checking for readiness. The disciples must have found ripe corn or even corn beginning to dry on the stalk because they rubbed the ears in their hands to loosen the corn for eating.
Naturally, the Pharisees were on hand to check for any rule-breaking or blasphemous or heretical teaching. I wonder, didn’t they ever get tired of following a group they felt were troublemakers, studiously writing down everything they felt had been said or done wrongly, and getting sore feet for their trouble? Anyway, They caught the disciples doing work on the Sabbath, and that was a major infraction.
Jesus, as usual, had a reply for the accusers. He reminded them of David on campaign with a group of his army, taking the Bread of the Presence* from the tabernacle and eating it. Looking up Bread of the Presence, I was surprised to find that in addition to bread that did not get stale or moldy for a week and that each loaf (of which there were 12) weighed about five kilograms or eleven pounds! The point was that hungry men deserved to be fed and that some of the grain (and probably corn) in the field were left for gleaners, poor people who could gather up what they could to help them feed their families until the next crop.
We don’t usually see farmers leaving a portion of their crop at the edges of the field for poor people to salvage. If they don’t grow it themselves or have the money to buy it at the store, then they don’t deserve it, at least, in the minds of a good many contemporary people. Most of the harvesting is done by machine, and another device gathers the crop. Machines don’t usually leave much behind as they cover the field, several rows at a time.
Food pantries have replaced gleaners, and they have fresh food and canned, dried, and packaged types. For the poor, those pantries are lifesavers, but those who use them are shamed at having to ask for things their meager budgets won’t cover. It isn’t only the holidays that food banks and pantries need help from those who can afford their groceries and still have money left over, but from donations from kind folks who know that hunger goes on 365 (0r 366) days a year. Corporations donate from their stock, churches, schools, and stores hold food drives. Even children canvass their neighborhoods, asking for help for those who sorely need it.
It’s time to start thinking about those who can’t walk through fields and gather leftover grains and vegetables. Jesus reminded the Pharisees that he, as Lord of the Sabbath, permitted feeding those who were hungry. If we remember our Gospel stories, we will think of other times when Jesus fed hungry people, using food given by others.
What if we were ourselves hungry? How would we cope? Saying that people in that condition should get a job, but is that the solution? Think of those working several jobs at low pay because that was the only work they could get. Think of working mothers who have the burden of paying for child care along with bills to pay. Think of the disabled and elderly who have limited resources. Is asking for cans of food, boxes of pasta and cereal, jars of peanut butter and jelly too much? Jesus said it was not just okay but necessary. In fact, it’s all through the Bible for those who care to look and to hear.
*For more information on the Bread of the Presence, please see the article at Chabad.org.
- For more info on corn, please see Wide Open Eats.
Image: Calling in the Gleaners, Jules Breton (1859). Located at the Orsay Museum. Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.