Homilette for Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

(Matthew 12:1-8)

Ten years ago Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter entitled, “The Lord’s Day.” In it he tried to awaken Catholics to the glory of reserving one day a week for prayer, family, and renewal. He also challenged the secularizing idea of “weekend” which stretches a day for giving thanks in beloved company into two days or more of fulfilling individual ambitions. The letter is vintage John Paul: human, reflective, and devout.

In the Gospel reading today Jesus provides us with his own reflection on the Sabbath. Of course, for him it is the very end of the week, not its beginning. As in Orthodox Jewish communities today, the Sabbath in Jesus’ time is rigorously regulated: no cooking, no walking beyond what amounts to a kilometer, no jumping or handclapping. Historians tell us that in pre-exilic Israel (i.e., before 586 B.C.) the Sabbath observance was more relaxed and enjoyable. This is Jesus’ own conception as he responds to the Pharisees who claim that his disciples are not Sabbath observant.

Do we feel a twinge of guilt when we head to the mall or go to the office on Sunday? It would not necessarily be unhealthy if we did. It is not that such actions are sinful in themselves. Jesus argues for the necessity of similar deeds by his disciples. But still we should not let Sunday go by without giving primary consideration to Jesus. He is, after all, the “Lord of the Sabbath.”