Mt 12:1-8 Nitpicking

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.”

A long time ago, a woman came up to me after Mass and complained about the way I celebrated Mass.  She told me I did not put my hands together at the proper moments.  I thanked her for her concern and told her to be careful not to nitpick. 

Nitpicking.  In the old days, nitpicking referred to “the act of removing nits (the eggs of lice, generally head lice) from the host’s hair.  As the nits are cemented to individual hairs, they cannot be removed with most lice combs, and, before modern chemical methods were developed, the only options were to shave all the host’s hair or to pick them free one by one. 

As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious, meticulous attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors in detail and then criticizing them” (Wikipedia).

The Pharisees were nitpicking.  Do you nitpick?

Someone once told me that if you look long and hard enough at someone – anyone – you will always find something to complain about.  Everyone has their defects, even the Lord.  Don’t be scandalized, I said defects, not sins. 

I believe nitpicking is a consequence of jealousy and/or rushing to conclusions (judging things and others harshly).  The Pharisees were obviously jealous of Jesus.  After all, He packed the house, He impacted His audience, He changed the hearts and minds of thousands, He practiced what He preached, He sacrificed for others, He loved like no other.

The Pharisees had no other alternatives but to either humble themselves and join Him, or revert back to man’s basic instinct and look for a flaw – any flaw – in his character.  They chose the road most traveled.

From today’s Gospel passage, it’s clear the Pharisees also suffered from the all too common tendency of harshly and rashly judging the Lord or the one and only one they were most jealous of.

Could they not see that the Lord’s men were living in strict poverty?  Could they not understand all the good they were doing and how their actions had been blessed by God and collaborated by David and his men? 

For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.  Although He is God, the Lord is not above the Law.  On earth, Christ was totally and unconditionally obedient to His Father and to His Father’s Laws.  The problem was:  He understood His Father and His Father’s Laws better than the teachers of the Law.  He understood that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27).  The significance of this statement is as enormous as the significance of the Copernican model of our solar system!  The Lord just moved Man back to the center of His Father’s Attention.  He turned all His Laws upside down.  Man is the center of God’s love.

Let’s avoid being nitpicky by putting love of God and neighbor above ourselves, our jealousies and our harsh judgments.  (0)

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Fr. Alfonse (1044 Posts)

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