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Sanctified Sundays

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop & Doctor of the Church

First Reading: Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8

When Hezekiah was mortally ill,
the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him:
“Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order,
for you are about to die; you shall not recover.”
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD:

“O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly
I conducted myself in your presence,
doing what was pleasing to you!”
And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: “Go, tell Hezekiah:
Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David:
I have heard your prayer and seen your tears.
I will heal you: in three days you shall go up to the LORD’s temple;
I will add fifteen years to your life.
I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria;
I will be a shield to this city.”

Isaiah then ordered a poultice of figs to be taken
and applied to the boil, that he might recover.
Then Hezekiah asked,
“What is the sign that I shall go up to the temple of the LORD?”

Isaiah answered:
“This will be the sign for you from the LORD
that he will do what he has promised:
See, I will make the shadow cast by the sun
on the stairway to the terrace of Ahaz
go back the ten steps it has advanced.”
So the sun came back the ten steps it had advanced.

Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 38:10, 11, 12ABCD, 16

R. (see 17b) You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die.
Once I said,
“In the noontime of life I must depart!
To the gates of the nether world I shall be consigned
for the rest of my years.”
R. You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die.
I said, “I shall see the LORD no more
in the land of the living.
No longer shall I behold my fellow men
among those who dwell in the world.”
R. You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die.
My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent,
is struck down and borne away from me;
You have folded up my life, like a weaver
who severs the last thread.
R. You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die.
Those live whom the LORD protects;
yours is the life of my spirit.
You have given me health and life.
R. You saved my life, O Lord; I shall not die.

Gospel: Matthew 12:1-8

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

NAB

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was relieved to read this Gospel. After years of fighting a legalistic battle with Sunday duties and obligation instead of being rooted in love and joy, reading this Gospel took a huge weight off my shoulders. Jesus has mercy in our failings, and still calls on us to go deeper and do more than rote actions.

Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests serving in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I say to you, something greater than the temple is here. If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

These words bring me great comfort.

For me, Christ’s words tell me two things—the first of which is RELAX. He wants mercy. Mercy occurs when we are shown love and forgiveness undeservedly. If it is deserved, it isn’t mercy right? Christ reminds us that we must go above and beyond the letter of the law. We should seek out performing works of mercy on Sundays, making that day extra special and sacred. The Catechism talks about not making demands on others that would take away from their observance of Sundays as a day of rest. (CCC 2187). Cultivating your mind, setting aside time for reflection, and meditation will help grow your interior life. (CCC 2186).

The second thing I take away from this is that because He is the Lord of the Sabbath, I serve Him by serving others and in doing so, honor Him. All seven days of the week. Fasting, almsgiving, penance—all key and important but as Christ tells us vis-a-vis the Pharisees, being legalistic is not the path to Heaven. Our new Sabbath—Our Lord’s Day is a day of joy and thanksgiving.

Christ has made the ultimate sacrifice already. We are called to do our best, to get up when we fall down, and to serve Him in a special way on Sundays.

How do you set apart your Sunday for God? Beyond Mass attendance is there anything you do special on your Sundays to set that day aside as for the Lord? Are you acting out of love and joy or obligation?

photo credit

MaryRuth Hackett is a full-time wife and mother doing her best to teach her four children to love God and country. You can find out more about her here.

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