Keeping Sunday Holy

Homily for the Ninth Sunday of Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

When miners are mining underground for coal, trains transport the coal underground before it is brought up to the surface. How were the wagons of coal pulled underground before the days of locomotive engines? Mules were used. A visitor who was traveling through the coal-rich area of Pennsylvania more than a century ago asked why there were so many mules grazing in the fields around the coal pits. The answer was that the mules work underground six days a week and are brought to the surface every Sunday. If they were not brought to the surface one day a week they would go blind. (I found this story in an online homily by Jerry Fuller OMI on Deacon Sil)

The mules needed to come to the surface one day a week or else they would go blind. One of the ways in which we could go blind now is forgetting that there are things in life more important than economics, money and a thriving economy. We could be so busy working and earning money that we are blind to spending enough time together. We could be so intent on making money that we needlessly work on Sunday. Like those mules we too need to rest from work one day a week to prevent us from going blind in many ways. There is a saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” It is good to relax, to get away from it all, to take a rest, to go on holidays, to go on retreat, to take exercise. We can only work well if we are taking proper rests. In the Gospel the Pharisees were blind to Jesus being master of the sabbath (Mark 2:28). Their interpretation of the Law of Moses had led them into error so that they even became obstinate when Jesus healed on the sabbath (Mark 3:5). It was as if Jesus was now leading them to the surface to see with the real light of God but alas they were resisting. Jesus really was lord of the sabbath because in the New Covenant the holy day changed from Saturday, the sabbath, to Sunday, the Lord’s day. What Paul wrote to the Corinthians in the second reading was being fulfilled,

For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Cor 4:6)

One day a week has been given to us by God for rest, Sunday. It is a day when we pull back from our normal activities, a day when we spend time with other people and a day when we spend more time with God. It is a day when many people do works of mercy, such as visiting the sick. Of all the things we do on Sunday celebrating the Eucharist together as a community is the most important. It is the highlight of our week, the most important hour of our week. Jesus said, ‘Do this in memory of me’ (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24) and so we gather every Sunday to meet Jesus in the Eucharist. God calls us to himself individually but also calls us to himself as his body, members of the Church. That is why we gather as a parish every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. We are answering God’s call to worship, praise and honor him. Those who say they pray in their own way at home on Sunday do not have the Eucharist at home, do they? And yet Jesus said to celebrate the Eucharist in memory of him.

Sunday is a day when we remember that we are on this planet for just a short few years and that we are here to prepare for eternal life. Every Sunday is meant to be a foretaste of heaven, because every Sunday is meant to be a day of rest, and a day devoted to God. Sunday is a day when we remember that we are not just bodies but that we are body and soul. We are hopefully nourishing our souls every day but we do so above all through our Sunday Eucharist when God speaks his word to us in the Scripture readings, when we receive God’s love for us in the Eucharist. Sunday is a day to remember that we are just passing through this life. Sunday is a reminder that there is a spiritual side to each of us and that we cannot expect to be fully happy if we do not feed our souls. It is obvious that we are living in a time when there is less and less respect for anything religious and there are less people celebrating the Eucharist together. But if we don’t have God in our lives, what value do our lives have any more?

Just think that the greatest miracle takes place in your local parish church every Sunday when bread becomes the body of Jesus for you. Jesus died on Calvary for you and the grace of Calvary is offered to you anew in every Mass. Words cannot describe the gift or beauty or holiness of the Mass. Words cannot describe the love of God available to each of us in every Mass. If ever we complain about the Mass it shows that we have not yet grown to understand the love of God for us in the Mass. Try to grow more in understanding of the love of God for you in the Mass every time you celebrate the Eucharist here. I conclude now with the words of the first reading,

“The Lord says this, Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.. For six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath for the Lord your God.” (Deut 5:12-13)

(See Dies Domini, Apostolic Letter of Our Holy Father Pope John Paul II on keeping the Lord’s Day holy)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More Material for the Ninth Sunday of Year B

Related Homilies: In the New Covenant the holy day changes from Saturday, the sabbath, to Sunday, the Lord's Day