Keeping the Sabbath Holy

Tom Bartolomeo
11th Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Samuel 12, 7-10,13; Psalm 32;
Galatians 2: 16,19-21; Luke 7:36-8:3
Reproduced with Permission

On the sixth and last day of creation we read in the Book of Genesis:

The heavens and the earth were finished . . . . And on the seventh day God finished his work . . . and he rested on the seventh day from all his work . . . . So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work he had done in creation. (Genesis 2, 1-3)

These verses may seem both puzzling and comforting. We know that God does not tire or need to rest, but we do. And we hope that someday we may share in his rest which Saint Paul longed for, "while we . . . are away from the Lord . . .we walk by faith . . . and we would rather be . . . at home with the Lord". (2 Corinthians 5, 7-10). This reflection may only occur in church while "keeping holy the Sabbath" at Sunday Mass.

The Sabbath, our Sunday, God willed to be our weekly day of rest and reflection so important that he made it a commandment, "Keep holy the Sabbath", that we not ignore its benefits strengthening our relationship with God and his Son's relationship with us in the Holy Spirit, why Jesus also commanded us to remember him in the Mass thanking Him, the meaning of the word, "Eucharist" for his relationship with us. If your mother or father has told you and your children, "Don't be a stranger", you know what I mean. What regrets do we carry with us after our mothers and fathers have passed away? Are your children on that same glide path to a dead end? It is for all these reasons that you are here to maintain your relationship with your eternal Father, His Son and your Brother and His Holy Spirit.

Fathers Geary, Earl and I have directed our homilies for three weeks on the Mass, first, the reverence we owe God as his adopted children. Sadly, Sunday for many is just another busy day . . . work, shopping and chores which so quickly melds into Monday, week after week. Many skip Sunday Mass altogether or begrudging come because it's 'just another busy day of 'work, shopping and chores'. At times some think they have 'good reasons' to skip Mass and their children with them. Where will that lead them in their relationships with their children and their relationships with God especially for their children in our school or religious education classes? Will the children not see through the hypocrisy and later in life imitate them? Some, however, build their Sundays around Mass, not because my homilies or the music are great but because they look forward to a day of rest with God.

Our appreciation of the Mass depends on two factors, our understanding and devotion. One can not exist without the other. We cannot appreciate what we do not understand. Unfortunately many Protestant attitudes have found their way into the Catholic Church, primarily as places of fellowship which you can also find in 30,000 other churches in our country whose pews are filled with former Catholics and the dissatisfied who regularly move from one church to the other. First, we begin with the order of the Mass, the significance of the language, gestures and action of the Mass. The ritual of the Mass not only brings us together but more importantly improves our relationship with God. The Mass is not our first encounter with God, revealed by prophet Isaiah, who said, "Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: 'I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself'." (Isaiah 44:24).

In the Mass there are three principle actors, one, Jesus in the person of the priest commanded by Christ to "do this in memory" of him, two, other assisting ministers as readers of Sacred Scripture except the Gospel, as altar servers and musicians and, three, the faithful who share in the common priesthood of the Church. Everything in the drama of the Mass springs from Jesus and returns to the Father. Christ is our intermediary with the Father without whom we would have no standing with God. The priest presides at the Mass and directs all the participants in the Mass. The Mass comprises two liturgies, one, the Liturgy of the Word and, two, the Liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice. Both liturgies have equal importance in the Mass, one, hearing the Word and Wisdom of God and, two, witnessing the Word "made flesh" in his death, resurrection and ascension.

Particular prayers begin and introduce each liturgy. For the liturgy of the Word, the priest presider asks the faithful, "Let us pray" when we join in the particular intention of the Mass with the response, "Amen". Before this call for unity of the faithful in prayer to God the priest presider had greeted the faithful with the sign of the cross invoking the Holy Trinity to which the faithful reply, "Amen." Then the priest presider and the faithful together ask God's forgiveness for their sins, "Lord have mercy . . . Christ have mercy" followed on certain Solemnities with their praise for God's glory, "Gloria to God in the highest . . ." that "God may have mercy on us" and "receive our prayer". Finally, after these preparations we sit to hear the assigned Scriptural readings and stand to hear the Gospel reading by the priest presider, deacon or other priest. Lastly, the priest presider, deacon or other priest gives the homily, a reflection on the readings heard or other matters of faith and morals.

The Profession of faith follows at a Solemn Mass and the Prayers of the Faithful unites us in mind and heart and concludes the liturgy of the Word. One faith, one Church, one Lord.

The liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the priest taking the gifts offered by the faithful for the holy sacrifice, the bread and wine to be changed into the body and blood of Christ which will be blessed, broken and distributed to the faithful from the altar of Christ's sacrifice. After the priest asks God's blessing of the gifts either in silence or aloud the gifts are then placed on the altar of sacrifice where only blessed gifts may be placed, the sole purpose of the altar is sacrifice. In the Mass we reverence the altar of Christ's death not the tabernacle. The consecration of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ may only be effected in the Mass. The tabernacle is the repository of the Eucharist for the sick and homebound, principally. It should be noted that the prayers which the priest presider prays are two kinds, one, when he prays with hands joined praying for the faithful and, two, when he prays alone with his arms and hands extended to the Father except when praying the "Our Father." In this manner of prayer the faithful are called to join their intentions to the priest's but not to mimick the priest's extended arms and hands as he intercedes to the Father which would be disruptive. This is one example of what separates the Mass from the worship services of many Protestant churches where the focus of the service is principally on the congregation. Before calling the faithful to witness the death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord the priest washes his hands symbolizing the cleansing of sin in baptism and then asks in Prayer that the faithful join him in prayer saying, "Pray, brothers and sisters that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to G od the almighty Father" and the faithful respond "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands" when the priest as Christ offers himself to God" and the faithful respond, "Amen." When the faithful rise for "The Eucharist Prayer" the priest presider begins a dialogue with the faithful saying, "The Lord be with you" and the faithful respond "And with your Spirit" which continues with the Preface of "The Eucharistic Prayer", "It is truly right and just" concluding with "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of Hosts . . . Hosanna in the highest."

The priest presider then prays aloud and alone from this juncture in thr Mass with his arms and hands extended praying one of the four Eucharistic Prayers-- when the faithful should be dwelling on the meaning of Christ's sacrifice on the altar. Near the conclusion of the Eucharist Prayer two brief acclamations occur when the faithful respond "Amen". With the last acclamation to the Holy Trinity the faithful respond "Amen", often referred to as the "great Amen" which concludes the Eucharistic Prayer. What follows is the Rite of Holy Communion preceded by the prayer Jesus taught us, "The Our Father", and two other prayers for the deliverance from evil and the gift of the peace of Christ. Then the priest presider before distributing Holy Communion contritely acknowledges that neither he or the faithful are worthy of receiving the Lord's peace beford he says, "The Peace of the Lord be with you always". The faithful are asked to extend solemnly and quietly this peace of Christ to another "Let us offer each other the sign of peace." Too often some of the faithful are scandalous in their behavior here at Mass, breaking out in loud conversation, scuffling from pew to aisle . . . just before saying, "Lamb of God . . . have mercy on us" and immediately after that, "Lord, I am not worthy . . . ?" After the Rite of Holy Communion the priest purifies the sacred vessels and returns to his chair, where he has presided at the Mass, and or the last time says, "Let us Pray." After which he repeats the invocation from the beginning of Mass, "The Lord be with you" and the faithful reply, "And with your Spirit". The priest presider blesses the faithful and repeats the instruction Jesus gave his first disciples, "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord."