Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost-The Observance Of Sunday
GOSPEL. Luke xiv. 1-11. At that time when Jesus went into the house of one of the chief of the Pharisees, on the sabbath day, to eat bread, they watched him. And behold there was a certain man before him that had the dropsy. And Jesus answering, spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying: Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? But they held their peace. But he, taking him, healed him, and sent him away. And answering them, he said: Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him out on the sabbath day? And they could not answer him to these things. And he spoke a parable also to them that were invited, marking how they chose the first seats at the table, saying to them: When thou art invited to a wedding, sit not down in the first place, lest perhaps one more honorable than thou be invited by him, and he that inviteth thee and him, come and say to thee: Give this man place: and then thou begin with shame to take the lowest place: but when thou art invited, go, sit down in the lowest place: that when he who invited thee cometh, he may say to thee: Friend, go up higher. Then shalt thou have glory before them that sit at the table with thee. Because every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
THE OBSERVANCE OF SUNDAY
Our divine Lord went about, continually doing good to all; He instructed the ignorant, healed the sick, brought the dead to life, and freed those possessed of the devil. All these benefits ought to have made Him beloved by all; many did love the good Jesus, but there were others who hated Him, and were constantly persecuting Him. So far did their hatred go, that long before the time appointed by Providence for His death they sought to apprehend Him, and once in deed they even took up stones to put Him to death, but He made Himself invisible to them and walked away unmolested. His goodness was a stumbling-block to them. The same thing will be found among Christians; it is hard to believe, but there are Pharisees among us; there are people who hate those who are doing good. They do not wish to be good themselves, and they can not bear that others should be. As soon as they hear that some one has distinguished himself by good works, they try to detract from his work; they talk against it, and blacken his character as well as the act itself. This is so abominable and ignominious a disposition that you cannot find worse it is something of the nature of the sin of Cain. Abel, the good and pious husbandman had given to the Lord as a sacrifice the wheat of the field, and for this the fire of God’s love descended on the offering and consumed it. So angry did Cain become, that he could no longer bear his brother, and conceived the terrible idea of murdering him. He invited him to go with him to a field, with the ostensible purpose of looking at something in which both were interested. There he took a club and killed Abel. What a horrible thing was this, first murder, the result of envy.
Could not Cain have been as good as Abel? One was better than the other, and consequently God loved him more. Envy is the devil’s principal vice, and one reason why he wishes to do so much injury to human kind. We manifest this same murderous disposition when we practice envy for any reason whatever, but especially when we feel envious of others who are better than we are. It is a most disagreeable trait of character not to like the good qualities of our neighbor. There are many young people who by jokes and ridicule lead others astray, and make themselves willing and effective tools of Satan. They diminish the number of saints in heaven and rob many of the society of Our Lord, and by destroying their chance of going to heaven make His sacred blood ineffectual in their case. Of such as these I would ask, do you not fear, do you not tremble, to heap up against yourself the anger of almighty God? Think of this seriously, cease your envy against your brethren who wish to serve God, guard against the ruin of souls by scandal, seek to encourage others to practice virtue, to bring many over to the following of Christ, and your reward will be exceeding great.
While the Pharisees were closely watching Our Lord, there was a man among the audience sick of the dropsy. Turning to the Pharisees Jesus asked them, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath-day?” Our Lord had often healed on this day of rest, but they had taken offence at it, and made it a cause of accusation. But now they did not answer. Then Our Lord took the sick man by the hand, healed him and sent him away. And turning to the Pharisees He said: “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit and will not immediately draw him out on the Sabbath-day?” And they could not answer Him. Our Lord could but pity the blindness of these men.
The Jews were such exact observers of the laws of the Sabbath-day that they even abstained from doing works of charity. Our Lord on this occasion wished to teach them that it was not wrong to do a good action on this day; in fact that it was the day on which such things should be done. Let me make a few reflections on the manner of sanctifying the feasts of the Church. The Catechism of the Council of Trent tells us that we sanctify the day by hearing Mass, receiving communion, and hearing the word of God. But what do our young people do on feast days? How few there are who give ear to the command of the Church to hear Mass; they would rather go and enjoy themselves, drinking and carousing: if they assist at Mass they are there only in body; their mind is engaged on subjects totally foreign to what is going on; their eyes wander here and there, they talk and laugh, even at the most sacred parts of the Mass, or when the Blessed Sacrament is exposed; month after month passes, even year after year, and they do not approach the sacred tribunal of penance or go to holy communion. They ought to hear the word of God, but do they perform this duty? And even should they be present at a sermon, do they remember any of the salutary lessons given by the preacher? The sanctification of the feasts of God’s Church is a positive and clear command. We read in the Scriptures, that “the rest of the Sabbath is sanctified to the Lord” Are they not very wicked who do as they please on holy days or who commit sin on these days? What have they to expect from the judgments of God?
Once when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, preparatory to the time when they were to be admitted into the Promised Land, a man was discovered gathering kindling wood on the Sabbath-day; he was brought to Moses and Aaron and the assembled tribes of Israel. The decision was that he should be kept securely in prison until they had received word from God what was to be done. God’s order was that he should be taken outside the camp and stoned to death.
This world was not made by almighty God simply for our pleasure, nor were the days given us for the same purpose; in short God has reserved to Himself certain days, which we should consecrate to Him. These occasions are like days of mercy and grace, on which, for a while, at least, we with draw from the things of this world, in order to raise our eyes and our hearts to God. Sanctify, then, these days; do not desecrate them by unlawful work, by dissipation or by sin. I know that those who are advanced in years ought to give you a good example in this regard. We often find avaricious old men and women, working at their trades or spending hours in playing cards, or in games. But be not infected by their wickedness. Even should unscrupulous employers or your parents command you to work on Sunday or a holy day, say openly and frankly, “I will not work if I will obey God rather than man” Do not content yourself by doing only a little of God’s will on these days; do all that is required for their sanctification. Hear Mass with great devotion and listen to the word of God preached by His ministers. See how our forefathers, even in times of persecution, observed the feasts of the Church! They descended into the catacombs of Rome, heard Mass, and went to communion; there they remained engaged in holy discourse, exhorting one another to give up life and liberty for Jesus Christ. The mother would point out to her children the tomb of a father, brother or daughter, who had given up life for Christ, and inspire them with courage to remain faithful to the end. Remember we are the children of the saints, and should live and die as they lived and died.
Our Lord wishes also on this occasion to give to the Pharisees a lesson of humility. It was their custom, on account of their rank and their pretended piety, to look for the places of honor at the table. The very humiliation which sometimes befell them ought to have taught them better. For often when one of them had taken the first place at the table the master of the house would be obliged to say to him, “There is a great friend of mine here who must sit at my side, so you will have to go down lower and make room for him.” They should have understood that they ought to take the last place, and then, if they merited a better one, the master of the house would certainly ask them to go up higher; then they would be honored before all the guests. For “whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled, and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Be humble, therefore; do not place yourself above others, nor try to make them stepping-stones for your own greatness.
No one can ever follow out these rules of the Gospel without prayer. By means of this powerful weapon, you will obtain humility and you will lead a happy life, for the more humble you are the more will you be exalted and freed from ambitious desires that rob you of your peace of mind. Remember that the more you shall be humbled and despised in this world the greater will be your reward in heaven.