Pastoral Message – JUNE 13, 2021
Please think about a couple of Bible verses today – “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad.
This is a familiar verse from Psalm 118. It was one of the first Bible verses I learned as a kid. Maybe that’s true for you too. Even if you’re not much of a biblical expert, you’ve heard this verse frequently because it shows up in our liturgical celebrations often. That’s apropos since Psalm 118 is a song from an ancient liturgical procession to the Temple in Jerusalem.
And “I rejoiced when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord.” – This is also a familiar verse from Psalm 122. I also learned this verse as a small child. It’s the opening line of a “Song of Ascent” or a “Song of Zion. It was sung by either pilgrims as they climbed Mount Zion, the site of the Temple in ancient Jerusalem or by Levites as the climbed the stairs into the Temple precincts.
Both of these verses, individually and in tandem, indicate a Christian truth that is both ancient and new – a truth practiced by our spiritual and familial ancestors and practiced by each of us here and now. We work, celebrating 6 days of creation and one day, we rest – we have a Sabbath. Sabbath, which we celebrate on Sunday, is the day set aside for relaxation and worship. (It wasn’t set aside for tournaments, and sports in general, commerce, etc. But I won’t preach about that now.) The Sabbath as a day of worship and rest is a law still practiced by our Jewish friends. It is also a mandate in Roman Catholic canon law that we attend Mass on Sunday. So this is serious, but not oppressive. Actually, we should rejoice that we have wise laws which encourage us to rest and be renewed in the house of the Lord.
I’m asking you to consider these verses for two reasons. First, for some personal accountability – are you keeping the Sabbath holy? Next, I’d ask you to help others understand and return to practicing Sunday as Catholic Christians. About 30-35% of our fellow parishioners haven’t felt able to come to the “house of the Lord” due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That is a significant number. They might have been resting on Sunday, but it’s been an uneasy rest. I’ve heard so many folks tell me how they’ve missed Church – the Sacraments, the celebration, the fellowship and relationships. So many have told me that they have experienced a dark and dismal time, full of fear, loneliness and spiritual dryness. So now, at the tail-end of this pandemic scare, as we emerge from hunkering down and as business and the Church continue to open up, it’s a good thing to reflect on the meaning of the Lord’s day. And maybe we intentionally start a new normal of rest and worship on Sundays.
If you’ve been coming to Mass throughout the pandemic, God bless you. If you’ve been watching the live-streamed Masses but missed the Body and Blood of Christ, God bless you and thank God for technology. If you’ve been unable to participate, God bless you and welcome back! But now we can all join together again. Hope much more can God bless all of us. We can certainly rejoice!
But there are some of our Saints Simon & Jude folks that haven’t found their way back to Church yet. I won’t call them “lost sheep” because they’re not lost in God’s sight, but they might still not feel comfortable yet. For the last 15 months, folks have been hearing they must stay away from gatherings. Well, I think it’s now time to share our joy. If you know somebody that hasn’t made it back to the parish yet, give them a call. Invite them to join you. As we start up Adult Bible study in July, or have a BBQ, or a family night over the summer, invite these friends along. Heck, maybe you know some folks who haven’t been Church-going people before, but you know that a friendly outing would be good for their spirits, well come one then! Invite them to a family movie night! A simple invitation can’t hurt. And maybe they’ll take you up on the offer. Pray they take you up on the offer!
Finally, I’d also say, as folks are coming back, let’s look like we’re rejoicing! Let’s all be welcoming and open. I recently heard about a family with young children that showed up to a Saturday night Mass. They had a less than positive experience due to some angry looks and shhhhhhs when the kids were just being kids. That’s not rejoicing in the Lord y’all. It certainly isn’t welcoming. I pretty sure it’s not even Christian. It certainly isn’t Christ-like. Instead, get outside yourself and empathize with a young Mom or Dad. You should be praising God that a young Mom and Dad are teaching their kids the tenets of Psalm 118 and Psalm 122! Don’t be grouchy and impatient. Pray for the kids, that they’ll always want to celebrate the Sabbath and rejoice in the Lord’s House in a community of the faithful.
So remember “This is the Lord.” Let’s all go unto the Lord’s house rejoicing, with praise and thanksgiving.