The Sabbath is well worth keeping, as Fr. Luke Winklemann points out in his homily for July 18, 2021, the 16th Sunday in ordinary time. The homily was delivered at St. John Vianney Parish, Northlake, Illinois, where Fr. Luke is pastor.
Beloved in Jesus Christ,
In the Holy Gospel today, we see Our Lord’s concern for his disciples’ well-being; they were very tired, they had been visiting many towns, tending to crowds – all on foot.
No charter bus to take them places!
Our Lord says: ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place, and rest awhile.’
St. Mark also says, there were so many people coming and going that they had not time even to eat; “and they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.”
There are two main points that we can take from this gospel.
The first is, that there needs to be a rhythm of Christian life.[i]
We see Our Lord, so many times, seeking out time for quiet, for prayer, then back to teaching. Our life should be a continuous going into the Presence of God for prayer and coming out of prayer into the world of our work and duties.
There are double dangers of life: one, is sloth, laziness, wasting time, idle hours, this is some’s weakness.
The other danger is that of constant activity, without time for God. Sometimes the whole problem in our life is that we give God no opportunity to speak to us because we don’t slow down – no quiet.
The second point is, that we need to rest from the busy world that we are in.
For many, it seems that each day is a frenzy of activity, one thing after another, hardly time to eat – like the apostles, hardly time to eat.
A priest friend asked me: “Father, are you a ‘sinker?”
“Do you often eat over the sink, in a hurry?”
Well, sometimes! But this is not good.
Getting up early, some time for prayer, taking care of the kids, perhaps a half-hour commute to work, non-stop at the office or at the job-site, frustrations at home, or dealing with bad news on top of all the duties of the day – life for many, seems to go faster and faster.
Now God knows about all of this, believe it or not! In fact, he gave us a solution to it. It is as if he is a doctor, and he wrote out a prescription for our anxiety, and fatigue, exhaustion.
It is the 3rd Commandment: Keeping holy the Lord’s day.
Yes, I know, we still have the Covid rule: the bishop, while urging us to go to Mass – it is still not a requirement. But the 3rd Commandment also requires us to rest on Sunday, and this is so needed nowadays.
The book of Genesis describes creation in 6 days, and on the 7th day, it says “God rested.” Now when Moses wrote that, he knew that God does not need to rest. The story of creation teaches us, that the Lord’s day is for rest, for us.
The Catechism says: “Human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their family, cultural, social, and religious lives.”
On Sunday, we are called to give the day to God. This means we don’t go shopping. We don’t remodel the bathroom or cut the lawn. It’s to be a calm day with family, a day to tell the world that spins around us, I am stepping off of the treadmill; today, God gives us a day to rest.
Now, in particular, the Church urges us not to engage in servile work – physical labor. We may do work of the mind, like some homework, or study; but really, the spirit of Sunday should call us to avoid stress, and it might be a good idea to avoid the internet.
The curiosity about things can lead a person from one website to another, Youtube video after Youtube video,until mom calls: “Time for dinner.”
“No! we say, I am busy.”
This is not the spirit of Sunday. We should be with mom, helping her, talking with siblings, not in our room all day. Sunday is a day to leave all that busy stuff behind, to relax the mind.
It used to be, that our society supported Sunday rest; stores used to be closed on Sunday, it was so quiet then.
Well-known Christian author Stanley Hauerwas writes: “I can point to the exact day that America ceased being a Christian nation. Tears were in my mother’s eyes after Church on Sunday, as she read the sign that said ‘open’ on the door of Woolworth’s Department store. The Lord was no longer the center of our town.”
Our enemy today is the spirit of the world that sweeps through social media, tv, music, the internet, everywhere.
Fulton Sheen said: “Today we have to conform to the world or else we’re branded”.
Oh, we must be politically correct. We must follow today’s spirit; After all, everyone else thinks that way.
Sunday is a reset from the spirit of the world, from the insanity, pushing ‘pause’ on the fury of life – this is how we can defend ourselves.
When I was on my first trip to Rome with seminarians, I went about the town after Sunday Mass to visit famous Churches. Would you know, door after door was locked? Locked! Don’t they know that tourists are here!
The neighborhoods slowed to a lazy quiet. Signs read: Closed for Sunday.
I thought, wow; this is how it used to be in my town.
I know that a lot of stores are now open on Sunday, but it is extra disappointing to see the Amazon trucks driving around, delivering on Sunday, coming right to our homes, on the Lord’s day. Not right.
When St. John Vianney got to his first parish, he saw how so many were working on Sunday, not at Mass. There was atheism around, left from the horrors of the French Revolution.
Sunday, he preached with tears in his eyes. People remembered how he said it 50 years later:
“You keep on working, but what you earn ruins your soul and your body. If we ask those who work on Sunday, ‘What have you been doing?,’ they might answer: ‘I have been selling my soul to the devil, crucifying our Lord, and renouncing my baptism. I am doomed to hell. When I see people driving carts on Sunday, I think they are carting their souls off to hell.’ O, how mistaken are his calculations for the man who toils on Sunday to earn more money or accomplish more work!”
Work in our society has become a god. Now, 7 days a week, Amazon can’t lose one dollar.
Now, we are not Orthodox Jews, who, on their day of rest, won’t even punch a button on the elevator because it is “work”. The Church says, “if you are forced to work, ok, you have to.”
But can you get off sometimes on Sunday? Is another job possible? Go to early Mass or the Saturday night Mass? Doctors and nurses and firemen must work on Sunday. yes, but try to keep it holy.
Are you out of milk? Ok, go get the milk or a few things, but don’t make Sunday your shopping day. The point is, we need some time, a quiet day, now more than ever, to push back against the rat race; to say no to the big rat
Now some might say: “Get modern Father, this doesn’t apply anymore.”
But in fact, it applies more now, than ever before. Where does all the anxiety and worry present in this world originate? Where do the neuroses, creeping into us come from? Every week we need a pause.
And, our families are not together. The Church says: Sunday is meant for family. A big family dinner, the best food of the week.
We used to have a nice meal every Sunday, special, the family was together.
Well, then my sister started dating an Italian guy. At 11:00 a.m. she had to go over there for an all-afternoon dinner! But, yes, a Sunday dinner together, a meal.
How about visiting grandma who is alone? Change her life! And yours, too. How about visiting a sick relative in the hospital? Or going to the park, or to the lake for a family day.
A woman sits home alone. Her children are too busy to visit. How much different would life be, if instead, everything was halted for a day to visit our loved ones, I think it’s our Christian duty.
So let us examine how we live. Maybe a change to our calendar, so that a sacred peace will be in our homes on Sunday. Let us buy our groceries ahead of time, cut the grass on Saturday, do our other things – to protect Sunday.
And, do I need the overtime, or am I just greedy?
Could I give up the overtime, and spend time with family?[ii]
When we are in our last days on this earth, we will not be grateful for the extra money we earned or the garage we built on Sunday. Rather, we will be grateful for having been true to the Good God, and to the family we love so much. And with a good conscience.
We will happily meet Jesus and Mary on the Eternal Sunday, in the world to come.