Friday, July 31, 2009


First Reading: Lv 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37
Psalm: Ps 81:3-6, 10-11ab -- Sing with joy to God our help
Gospel: Mt 13:54-58
Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola
The Lord said to Moses,
"These, then, are the festivals of the LORD which you shall celebrate at their proper time with a sacred assembly." - Leviticus 23:1,4


In today's reading, God is telling, nay, commanding that we take a holiday. In fact, he has three of them in mind. Let's take a look at them briefly:

The Passover: Recalling the time of flight from Egypt, where God worked many wonders to help his people.
The Passover of the LORD falls on the fourteenth day of the first month, at the evening twilight. The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD'S feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. - Leviticus 23:5-6
Day of Atonement: Recognition by the people of Israel that they are in need of the great mercy of God.
"The tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement, when you shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves and offer an oblation to the LORD." - Leviticus 23:27
Feast of Booths: Recalling the time spent in the desert, when the Lord led them. Also a celebration of the harvest.
The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD'S feast of Booths, which shall continue for seven days. - Leviticus 23:34

Each of these holy days is accompanied with a list of things that the Israelites are to do in memory of the Exodus and as worship for the Lord. Among those things is the command that no work shall be done on certain days. Furthermore, each day has a period before or after where preparation and offerings are to be made.

In our own day (at least, here in the U.S.), we have lots of holidays throughout the year. Each holiday has a certain event associated with it: 4th of July - fireworks, Thanksgiving - turkey and feasting, St. Patrick's Day - green, etc. We also have certain behaviors that are expected (or at least encouraged) on these days also. Yet, it seems to me that we often begin to forget, in the midst of all the activities, why certain holidays are being celebrated. When we think of the fireworks on the 4th, we don't think much of the great moment in our history, or the great price paid to realize the dream declared that day. Likewise, we don't spend a lot of time afterward thinking about either the holiday, or the history behind it.

A sharp contrast are the Catholic celebrations of Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter. These are periods of the year specifically set aside to do as was originally intended: reflect up to the holiday on the greatness of what happened these two days that changed our entire world, and then to reflect after them on the many blessings that God has given to us.

One does not need to wait until December or spring to celebrate, however. We are given a chance every week to celebrate and commemorate the greatest event in all of human history. That is the importance of attending Mass on Sunday, to recall the wonders our God has done for us. Furthermore, we have a period of a few days (six, in fact) where we can reflect and continue to offer thanks.
"For six days work may be done; but the seventh day is the sabbath rest, a day for sacred assembly, on which you shall do no work. The sabbath shall belong to the LORD wherever you dwell." - Leviticus 23:3

Heavenly Father, we thank you and praise you for the gift of this day. Thank you for giving us great days to celebrate and the tradition to remember why they are important to us and to you. Lord, help us to recognize and adore the wonderful celebration of the Mass. Grant that we might grow in love of this sacred event, where we are joined with your beloved Son. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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