I ended last week’s episode with: “It seems unthinkable that God would come to us, much less care for us, as a mother cares for her child even if that kid should wind up in prison. Yet it’s true. And it all begins with recognizing that love, which is unconditionally present in the scripture, is the meal, and is the others in our community. Won’t you reach out and greet the Lord today? If not today, when?”
Then life happened last week! Pope Francis issued an “Apostolic Exhortation” – a letter for all the faithful to encourage us – called “Gaudete Et Exsultate” (Rejoice and Be Glad). It’s a letter “on the call to holiness.” The Servites are mentioned in it!
Then life happened! I began to wonder more than before: “How is the Sabbath kept holy?” Let’s stick with just one day of the week. How can I, as a pastor, be a “Good Shepherd” and gather the community to be holy, especially on the Sabbath?
I mentioned ever so briefly during the Easter Triduum, the three days of the Christian Easter celebration, that I disagreed with Major League Baseball beginning the season on those days that Christians find “most holy” – - in particular on Good Friday. I recall as a child Sandy Koufax refused to pitch game one of the 1965 World Series (Dodgers v. Twins) on Yom Kippur the Jewish High Holy Day of Atonement. That decision has stayed with me all these years as a good example.
Some of us “older folks” can recall Sundays when department stores were closed. Can you imagine? Others will recall “Blue Laws” forbidding liquor to be sold. Can you imagine? Still other folks will recall that in some states, Pennsylvania in particular, blue laws regulated professional sports played on Sunday. Can you imagine?
We don’t need to return to the times of our nostalgic past. They weren’t the best of all possible worlds anyway. However, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, what might the pastor of a Catholic community suggest?
Holiness made practical, lesson one. Remember the past and who your teachers were. Most likely a woman comes to mind: grandMOTHER, Mom herself, or that second grade teacher at the catholic school I keep referring to. A bishop, novice master, spiritual author, spiritual director, all of these come to mind. They somehow taught in a most convincing way, most likely what we do today began as a habit with them, that the call to holiness is offered to us; the offer comes from God himself who wants to make us holy and call us to Himself. The point is, a Good Shepherd of our past convinced us that we were created for God, for holiness. Let us continue the work of that Good Shepherd and be Good Shepherds today.
Is Sunday Mass something done at a particular time to “get it out of the way” or is it something different, that is intentional and deliberate? If you have a ministerial role whatever that role is; hospitality minister, Eucharistic minister, reader, altar server, choir member, are you prepared to shepherd the congregation to unity with the Lord? If you come to worship, how do you prepare? How do you receive the worship? Are you a good steward of the gift of salvation? God is dwelling in us and in our community. We dwell in God, allow that grace to transform us to become saints and not people settle for a bland and mediocre existence.
Love the Lord your God – it’s the first and greatest of all the commandments. How do you observe the Sabbath for one hour? How do you greet the Lord and receive His greetings on the Sabbath? Does it last the entire day? Does the whole week stand a chance? What competes with your call to holiness in and with our community of St. Juliana, especially on the Sabbath?