Homily — 20th Sunday OT A 8/17/8

Homily — 20th Sunday OT A                    8/17/8

In the first Reading, the LORD speaks through the Prophet Isaiah and says: All who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; Their holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.

In this scripture passage and many others, we see God promising many blessings to those who keep the sabbath, the Lord’s Day, free from profanation.

I’d like to focus this week on what “Keeping Holy the Lord’s Day” entails, as this is one of the very few times the subject comes up in the three year cycle of Sunday readings.

When Moses received from the LORD the Ten Commandments, the 3rd Commandment as given in Exodus 20 verses 8—11 says:    “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.   Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you.   In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

God was able to do everything He needed to do Sunday through Friday, and He expected His people the Israelites to be able to do so as well. This Saturday day of rest the Jews took very seriously and they continue to take it very seriously.  For example, the Chinese government gave the President of Israel a room within walking distance from the Olympic complex, so that he could attend the opening ceremonies for the Olympics without violating the sabbath by driving in a car.  The other non-Jewish heads of state were put up in a hotel many miles distant.

The Saturday day of rest God commanded, however, was but a foreshadowing of Our Lord Jesus’ day of rest on Holy Saturday, as His crucified body lay dead in the tomb.

God the Father first created the world in six days, and then on the seventh day He rested.  But God the Son first rested on the seventh day, and on the eighth day He re-created the world and redeemed it through His glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

And from that day on, Christians knew almost by Divine instinct that the Eighth Day, Sunday, was now the new and eternal Lord’s Day which must be kept Holy each week.   Jesus, who is, in his own words, the Lord of the Sabbath, moved the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.

Keeping Holy the Lord’s day for the New People of God, the Church, is a two-fold commandment.

First and foremost, it entails being physically and spiritually present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday or Saturday Evening.

As my former pastor of my first parish, Fr. Donnelly, God rest his soul, used to say, “The prayers we say throughout the week are useless if we fail to join them to the great prayer Jesus offers in the Mass on Sunday.”

But while getting to Church is a very major part of keeping the 3rd Commandment, it’s not the only part.   In addition, we must also refrain from unnecessary work on Sunday.

Now, while the obligation to get to Mass if one is healthy and Mass is being offered nearby has always been a pretty black and white rule, refraining from work on Sunday has always admitted of a lot of gray areas and exceptions down through the centuries.

Certain professions have always been allowed to work, such as medical workers, policemen, food service workers.   On the other hand, one should refrain from other forms of work and business and commerce, especially manual labor if this is one’s main occupation the rest of the week.

Sadly, our American society over the past 50 years has got away from this second part of the 3rd commandment, and has turned Sunday into the biggest shopping day of the week.  Many people in the retail industry especially are forced to work on Sunday if they expect to keep their job.  In that case, an employee under these circumstances would not be violating the Commandment (although he should do everything he can to not work on Sunday).

However, certainly big business owners who claim to be Christian should examine their conscience on whether their decision to operate on Sunday and have sales that day is pleasing to God.   And also, we consumers who are Catholic should avoid unnecessary shopping on Sunday, for in doing so we are giving the business owners reason to force people to work on Sunday.   For if every Christian in this country refused to go shopping on Sunday, the stores wouldn’t bother staying open.

Now, the point of refraining from work and shopping on Sunday is so that everyone can spend time not only in prayer, but also with family and friends, visiting the sick, and getting needful rest to take on the coming week.

Let us my brothers and sisters examine our consciences on how well we have been keeping Holy the Lord’s Day.   When the Virgin Mary appeared to the children at LaSallette, she appeared crying, her face buried in her hands.   The children asked the Blessed Mother why she was crying and she said that it was because so many people were taking her Son’s name in vain and not keeping the Lord’s Day Holy.   May we not cause our Mother grief.

I will close with one of my favorite passages from Isaiah, which speaks of the great blessings we should expect if we obey the 3rd Commandment. Isaiah 58:12—14 states:

The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; “Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you, “Restorer of ruined homesteads.”

If you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on my holy day; If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD’S holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following your ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice–

Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

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