My Dear Sisters and Brothers! I would like us to keep the sentiments surrounding the sale of a church building so that we could enter into the mystery of the Sabbath.
The Gospel passage for this Sunday is a continuation of what we heard last Sunday: ‘Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the Sabbath came Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach.’ That day our Blessed Lord also freed a man from the grip of devil. Today we hear that he also healed Simon Peter’s mother of law. Some people got upset that he did not observe the Sabbath which was to be the day of rest. However the commandment to rest on Sabbath was for people to follow. God, on the other hand, as Jesus once said ‘is always at his work.’ Here we touch the mystery of God’s Providence. If God ceased working our world would cease existing. It is God’s work which sustains us and our world.
So does Jesus, by performing certain acts on the day of rest, tell his listeners to work on the Sabbath too? He doesn’t. The sentence I have just quoted about God’s work Jesus concluded saying: ‘And I too am working.’ ‘My father is always at work and I too am working.’ The Father is always at work. The Son is always at work. The Holy Spirit is always at work. The people on the contrary are called to rest to contemplate and appreciate what God does.
For the Jews the Sabbath was Saturday, the seventh day, the day on which God rested after creating the whole world. God rested not because he got tired but to give his people a time which was to allow them to celebrate God’s mighty works, to notice God’s continues presence in the world and to remind themselves that the future of the world did not depend on their work only. This one day free of work, which could be seen as a waste from an economical point of view, was to tell the whole world that the Jews trusted God. They could afford to ‘waste’ a day every week because they believed in God’s Providence.
For us Christians, our Sabbath, our day of rest, is Sunday. We rest to proclaim to the world that we too trust in God’s Providence not in our frantic efforts. However we rest in a religious manner. It is not just a relaxation. It is a celebration. Like the first disciples of the Lord encountered the Risen Jesus on that Sunday which we call the Easter Sunday, we too come together to encounter the Risen Jesus at the Sunday Eucharist. We do this in his memory as he told us. Those disciples of Jesus had new life entering their existence when they witnessed the Risen Jesus.
On the first day of the week like the women rushing to the tomb we, the people of God, rush to our Christian communities to draw new life from the Saviour who has never ceased working for us and for our salvation. The new week which is ahead of us, and of which Sunday is the first day, we want to build on the salvation Jesus has won for us. We draw grace from Jesus in Eucharist so that the new week could draw us closer to the Holy Trinity not farther away from God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Maybe the era, in which we live, when we witness the shrinking of Christian communities and subsequently the sale of the number of beautiful churches provides us with a more urgent question: ‘Do we grieve the loss of Christian sensitivity to the sacredness of Sunday too? Are we determined by our manner of observing our Sabbath: Sunday, to show our families, friends, colleagues, neighbours, etc. that we trust in God’s Providence, that we stop our frantic efforts to draw new life from Eucharist?’
Before the Muslim invasion the North Africa was the thriving home to Christians. There were more bishops there than in Europe. After Islam took over the area it all disappeared. Hundreds of churches were destroyed. However the Church did not disappear. It began growing in other places. We may lose some of our precious churches and we will still survive. However if we lose the sense of sacredness of Sunday we are lost.
Today as we listen to our Dear Lord working on the Sabbath we stop whatever we usually do to ’waste’ this day so that we may bear witness to our world that God keeps on working for us and for our salvation. We stop and we invite people around us to stop too and to contemplate with us the mighty works of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.