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God and Eternity

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Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The YouTube video version of this Sunday homily will be posted on Sunday afternoon

 

Living the Sabbath 

This Sunday’s liturgy speaks to us about something which is fundamental for our lives as a Catholic people: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your entire mind” (Matthew 22: 37).

One of the principle ways in which we live out these words of Jesus is through our celebration of the weekly Sabbath.

During his pontificate, Saint Pope John Paul II wrote an excellent document on how we must live each Sunday.

Regarding the Third Commandment he wrote: “In setting this commandment within the context of the basic structure of ethics, Israel and then the Church declare that they consider it not just a matter of community religious discipline but a defining and indelible expression of our relationship with God, announced and expounded by biblical revelation.

But, man’s relationship with God also demands times of explicit prayer, in which the relationship becomes an intense dialogue, involving every dimension of the person.  The Lord’s Day is the day of this relationship par excellence when men and women raise their song to God and become the voice of all creation” (Dies Domini; 13, 15).

As a Catholic people, we need to recuperate the real meaning of Sunday as the Lord’s Day and witness to all those around us the proper way to live out the weekly sabbath.

Secularism and materialism are trying to eradicate all sense of God and true religious practices from our modern society.

How then are we to live the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day?  There are two fundamental aspects to the Sabbath.

First, we need to worship at our parish and secondly, we must refrain from all unnecessary physical work.

Regarding the first practical aspect of the Sabbath, Sunday worship must be at the very center of our lives.

We need to go to church every Sunday unless we are sick, or the weather keeps us inside our homes.  We need to dress appropriately for Mass, because the church is God’s house.  We need to worship at Mass with full and active participation.

Punctuality is a must.

The second aspect of our Sabbath is the prohibition from all unnecessary physical work.

“Just as God rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done, 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 familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs, or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health” (Catechism of the Catholic Church; 2184, 2185).

This means that we are to do housework, yard work and shopping on other days, not on Sunday.

Although it is true that some people will have to work because they are involved with service orientated professions (hospitals and restaurants), employers of these types of professions have a moral obligation to provide their employees time for worship and adequate rest.

Aside from the problems that secularism and materialism have caused in our culture, the bottom line is the fact that most of us simply just do not know how to rest.  We are a very active people and we need to recover the true sense of leisure.

Sunday rest is not simply baseball or football and a couple of six packs of beer, nor is the solution eight hours of spiritual reading.  We need to recapture the real meaning of leisure.

During my years in Spain and Mexico, it would be inevitable that interesting conversations with either Spaniards or Mexicans would take place regarding the differences between their countries and ours.

One man put it bluntly: “Look, the difference between us and you is that we work in order to live, and you live in order to work.”

The root of America’s extreme activity is a profound restlessness rooted in troubled consciences and lives that have lost the sense of what it means to be a creature of God.

This frantic pace of life is being put to sleep with sex, drugs, alcohol, excessive entertainment and frantic work schedules.  Most people equate true leisure to laziness and irresponsibility.

Moreover, a true living out of the sabbath each week will help each individual escape from the plethora of distractions that our frantic world offers us on a daily basis.

If we were to take the amount of time that we spend watching professional sports and the news added to the amount of time we spend on Facebook, and invert that time into our spiritual life, we would soon become great saints.

Our modern society, for many, has become a narcissistic fantasy land.

But, death keeps it real

Pope John Paul II wrote: “Nor can the Church omit, without serious mutilation of her essential message, a constant catechesis on what the traditional Christian language calls the four last things of man: death, judgment (universal and particular), hell and heaven.

In a culture which tends to imprison man in the earthly life at which he is more or less successful, the pastors of the Church are asked to provide a catechesis which will reveal and illustrate with the certainties of faith what comes after the present life: beyond the mysterious gates of death, an eternity of joy in communion with God or the punishment of separation from him.

Only in this eschatological vision can one realize the exact nature of sin and feel decisively moved to penance and reconciliation” (Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 26).

Thursday, November 2 is All Souls Day and tt is imperative that we not lose sight of the reality of Purgatory.

While it is important never to diminish the reality of the resurrection of the body, it is essential that we embrace the whole of Christian Revelation.  It is imperative that we do not simply adhere to those dimensions that make us feel comfortable.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1030, 1031).

Thus, it is important for our spiritual growth and development that we keep in mind the reality of purgatory.

Prayer, fasting, penance and ascetical practices are essential ingredients for those of us wishing to avoid a prolonged stay in purgatory.

It is also important that we understand the need to pray for the dead.  Since there is a purgatory, it is laudable that we have Masses celebrated for our deceased family and friends.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a powerful tool to free souls from the pains of purgatory.

Our reflection on death must fill us with hope in the reward of eternal life.

Our thoughts should also remind us that we need to be well prepared and ready for that mysterious day when the Lord call us to himself.

Let us pray:  O Saint Joseph, who died in the arms of Jesus and Mary, obtain for me, I beseech you, the grace of a happy death.  In that hour of dread and anguish, assist me by your presence, and protect me by your power against the enemies of my salvation.  Into your sacred hands, living and dying, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I commend my soul. Amen.

Requiam aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.  Grant them eternal rest, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.