Friday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

It could have been jealousy.  Or maybe they just felt threatened.  Either way, the Pharisees had lost sight of the mission.

You could see how they would have been jealous: here they are working long and hard to take care of the many prescripts of their religion, attending with exacting detail to the commandments of God and the laws that governed their way of life.  But it is Jesus, this upstart, and not them, who is really moving the people and getting things done.  People were being healed – inside and out – and others were being moved to follow him on his way.  That had to make them green with envy.

And, yes, they probably felt threatened.  The way that he was preaching, the religion he was talking about – well, it was all new and seemed to fly in the face of what they had long believed and what they had worked so hard to preserve.

But how had they gotten here, how did they lose the way?  Because what Jesus advocated was really not a different message: it was all about how God loves his people and that we should love God and others with that same kind of love.  That message was there: buried deep in the laws and rules that they were so familiar with, but somehow, the laws and rules became more important than the love.

The Pharisees wanted to preserve their religion and the way of life they had lived for so long.  Jesus wanted to make manifest God’s love, forgiveness of sins, and true healing.  It’s not that the rules of religion are not important, but the underlying message and the greatness of God cannot be overshadowed by legalism.  That is the argument in today’s Gospel; that is the argument that ultimately brought Jesus to the cross.  He would rather die than live without us; he paid the price that we might be truly healed and might truly live.  As the Psalmist reminds us today: Praise the Lord!

Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The leader of the synagogue had it all wrong, and he of all people should have known what was right. God always intended the Sabbath day to be a day of rest, yes, but also of healing, also of mercy. There is no way that we can rest if we are in need of those things. The woman in the story was plagued by a demon that kept her bent over for eighteen years. Some translations of this passage say that she was “bent double.” So she wasn’t just slouched over or bent part way, but more like this, bent in half, for eighteen years! For eighteen years she never had a moment’s rest from this demon. Not only that, because she was bent double, people never even really saw her – really looked her in the eye.

We find great healing when we rest, and so the healing of a person who had been plagued for so long by a demon that she was bent over double from the weight of it, that healing had every right to take place on the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath Day of rest. Who are we to decide when someone should be healed? That grace comes from God, and his mercy comes on his timetable, not ours. The Sabbath has come and gone for us this week, but as we head into the workweek this day, it would be wonderful if we could take a moment to plan for the coming Sabbath day of rest. We too are offered healing and mercy if only we would ask for it, if only we would rest in the Lord.

(Image by Doris Klein)

Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The leader of the synagogue had it all wrong, and he of all people should have known what was right. God always intended the Sabbath day to be a day of rest, yes, but also of healing, also of mercy. There is no way that we can rest if we are in need of those things. The woman in the story was plagued by a demon that kept her bent over for eighteen years. Some translations of this passage say that she was “bent double.” So she wasn’t just slouched over or bent part way, but more like this, bent in half, for eighteen years! For eighteen years she never had a moment’s rest from this demon. Not only that, because she was bent double, people never even really saw her – really looked her in the eye.

We find great healing when we rest, and so the healing of a person who had been plagued for so long by a demon that she was bent over double from the weight of it, that healing had every right to take place on the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath Day of rest. Who are we to decide when someone should be healed? That grace comes from God, and his mercy comes on his timetable, not ours. The Sabbath has come and gone for us this week, but as we head into the workweek this day, it would be wonderful if we could take a moment to plan for the coming Sabbath day of rest. We too are offered healing and mercy if only we would ask for it, if only we would rest in the Lord.

(Image by Doris Klein)

Saturday of the Twenty-second Week of Ordinary Time

So what was at stake here?  Was it the Sabbath?  Not really.

For Jesus, there wasn’t such a thing as a Sabbath rest from his mission of healing, nd teaching, and bringing people to salvation.  So as he walked along with his disciples, it didn’t bother him that they were “working” by picking heads of grain to eat.  They were hungry.  And Jesus was all about feeding people’s hunger, no matter what kind of hunger it was, and no matter what day it was – Sabbath or not.

He would be widely criticized for teaching on the Sabbath, but people were hungry for news of salvation.  He would be called blasphemous for calling God his Father on the Sabbath, but people were hungry for relationship with their God.  He would receive death threats for healing on the Sabbath, but people were hungry for wholeness.

Jesus’ point here is that the Sabbath is never important just for itself.  The Sabbath was an opportunity for people to rest in God, and it was God, not the Law, that could decide how that happened.  The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.

Monday of the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The leader of the synagogue had it all wrong, and he of all people should have known what was right.  God always intended the Sabbath day to be a day of rest, yes, but also of healing.  There is no way that we can rest if we are in need of healing.  The woman in the story was plagued by a demon that kept her bent over for eighteen years.  Some translations of this passage say that she was “bent double.”  So she wasn’t just slouched over or bent part way, but more like this, bent in half, for eighteen years!  For eighteen years she never had a moment’s rest from this demon.

We find great healing when we rest, and so the healing of a person who had been plagued for so long by a demon that she was bent over double from the weight of it, that healing had every right to take place on the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath Day of rest.  Who are we to decide when someone should be healed?  That grace comes from God, and the healing comes on his timetable, not ours.  The Sabbath has come and gone for us this week, but as we head into the workweek this day, it would be wonderful if we could take a moment to plan for the coming Sabbath day of rest.  We too are offered healing if we would rest in the Lord.

Monday of the Thritieth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

The leader of the synagogue had it all wrong, and he of all people should have known what was right.  God always intended the Sabbath day to be a day of rest, yes, but also of healing.  We find great healing when we rest, and so the healing of a person who had been plagued for so long by a demon that she was bent over double from the weight of it, that healing had every right to take place on the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath Day of rest.  The Sabbath has come and gone for us this week, but as we head into the workweek this day, it would be wonderful if we could take a moment to plan for the coming Sabbath day of rest.  We too are offered healing if we would rest in the Lord

Saturday of the Twenty-second Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

So what was at stake here?  Was it the Sabbath?  Not really.

For Jesus, there wasn’t such a thing as a Sabbath breath from healing, and teaching, and bringing people to salvation.  So as he walked along with his disciples, it didn’t bother him that they were “working” by picking heads of grain to eat.  They were hungry.  And Jesus was all about feeding peoples’ hunger, no matter what kind of hunger it was, and no matter what day it was – Sabbath or not.

He would be widely criticized for teaching on the Sabbath, but people were hungry for news of salvation.  He would be called blasphemous for calling God his Father on the Sabbath, but people were hungry for relationship with their God.  He would receive death threats for healing on the Sabbath, but people were hungry for wholeness.

Jesus’ point here is that the Sabbath is never important just for itself.  The Sabbath was an opportunity for people to rest in God, and it was God, not the Law, that could decide how that happened.  The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today's readings

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This isn’t a rural, agricultural area – although of course, it once was.  And your preacher today is a city and suburb boy, so some of the rural and agricultural themes of today’s Scripture readings threaten to pass us by.  And that would be too bad, because these themes are at the root of our call to worship, of our need for growth in faith, and our invitation to holy recreation.  And all of these themes are perfect ones for our observance of summer.

Someone asked me recently how I was enjoying my summer, and noted that things must be slower during this time of year for me.  I thought about my schedule of weddings, complete with preparing the couples for the sacrament, I thought about the fact that we still worship all summer long, day in and day out and that we still have to give a homily, however brief, on these warm days.  I thought about the appointments I have for pastoral counseling, the projects I’m working on for the fall, and all the daily emergencies that come up.  Slower in the summer?  Not so much.

And how many of you find yourselves in similar situations?  If you have children, then you have them more in the summer, and they’re going more places and doing more things.  Working for any company these days hardly ever allows for slow seasons, since every workplace is working leaner, or even completely understaffed.  Even professions like teaching, which traditionally pause in the summer, only give people the chance to pick up summer jobs.  And with the price of gas and the difficulty of air travel, how many of us are even traveling as much as we might these days?  Slower in the summer?  Not so much.

Full disclosure here: I am just today returning from a week’s vacation with my family.  It was nice to have the time off, and I really did appreciate the opportunity to recharge.  And that’s as it should be for all of us, because there really is a need for a Sabbath.  That’s what we’ve been telling our staff these days.  We encouraged every ministry to pause during July so that we can clean the buildings, touch up the paint, wax the floors, make repairs, and even just take a break from the normal hustle and bustle of parish life.  Even the Church needs a Sabbath now and then.

From ancient times, farmers would observe a pattern of crop rotation.  They would plant soil-enriching crops a year after soil-depleting crops.  And one year they would leave the land fallow – that is, they’d leave it crop-free, so that it would have a chance to rest and re-charge.  And that’s crucial in order to avoid a field that isn’t good for anything except to harbor rocks, weeds, and thorns – all those things that prevent a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold crop.

Isaiah prophesies a time when the word of God comes down to settle on fertile ground, a ground that lets that word accomplish the end for which God sent it.  This is a ground as fertile as a field enriched by rain and snow, “making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats.”  Clearly he was thinking about that good soil that can be sown with the seeds of God’s word, that will produce that harvest of a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  And this is the kind of soil God wants all of us to be.  We need to be fertile ground so that God’s word, sown in us, can grow up to feed multitudes.

But clearly that takes a certain care of the soil that is in us.  It has to be kept from the poison of the world: profane entertainment, relationships that kill the soul, poor use of free time, becoming embroiled in the things of the world instead of the people of the world.  That soil has to be watered with quiet time, reflection on our faith, and yes, given that fallow time, that Sabbath that allows us all to recharge.

And so this summer provides us the space for all of that.  Whether our situations provide for extended vacations, or even stay-cations, or whether we keep on going doing what we always do, we need to take time for a Sabbath.  Even if that’s fifteen minutes of quiet in an otherwise chaotic day. Worship, faith growth, and holy recreation cannot happen if we don’t take time out to let God’s word permeate our being.  We have to give the Lord time to let his word fertilize and water us, so that we can become fertile ground for anything God wants for us, or anything God wants us to do.  Because the Psalmist is right: “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.”  Blessed are we when we pause to become that good, fertile, fruitful ground.