9th Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle B-2009

FIRST READING            Deuteronomy 5:12-15

Thus says the Lord:  “Take care to keep holy the sabbath day as the Lord, your God, commanded you.  Six days you may labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God.  No work may be done then, whether by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or ass or any of your beasts, or the alien who lives with you.  Your male and female slave should rest as you do.  For remember that you too were once a slave in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm.  That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.”

SECOND READING                  2 Corinthians 4:6-11

Brothers and sisters:  God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.  But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

GOSPEL                Mark 2:23—3:6

As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain.  At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”  He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions were hungry?  How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest and ate the bread of offering that only the priests could lawfully eat, and shared it with his companions?”  Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”  Again he entered the synagogue.  There was a man there who had a withered hand.  They watched him closely to see if he would cure him on the Sabbath so that they might accuse him.  He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.”  Then he said to them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”  But they remained silent.  Looking around at them with anger and grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians against him to put him to death.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

What does it mean for us to “Keep Holy the Sabbath.”  We know that for us Christians, we keep the commandment of the Sabbath on Sunday now.  But do we observe Sunday at all as a special day, holy to the Lord?  What does “keeping a day holy” mean?

The first reading today is from the Book of Deuteronomy and speaks about the establishment of the Sabbath in the life of the Chosen People.  We can hear that the Sabbath is a time to remember the great works of God among His people.  The Sabbath is a time to remember God’s love for His people and the many times that God has shown His presence among His people.  In the Old Testament, and surely now as well, one of the great challenges in life is forgetfulness.  Once some great deed is past, we humans tend to forget that deed and the wisdom that might come from meditating on that deed.

The second reading is taken from the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  There are two really strong statements in the section of this letter that we read today.  First we hear:  “God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.”  And then later we hear this:  “We who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

Unless we take the time to meditate and reflect on these passages, we will miss our opportunity to understand the Word of God given to us this day.  Only in meditating on the light that has come into our darkness will we begin to understand how to celebrate the Sabbath each week.  With such meditation, we can begin to understand the mystery of suffering in the life of Jesus and in our own lives, so that we can recognize that we are being “given up to death for the sake of Jesus.”

The passage from Saint Mark’s Gospel that we read today gives us examples of not understanding how to live the Sabbath.  This Gospel passage helps us understand what it means that the Sabbath is made for us and we are not made for the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is not about rigidly keeping laws and quiet and meditation on the Word, but is also about doing good to others and seeking always to live in God’s love.

Such an understanding of the Sabbath today reminds us that we must set time aside to be with God.  Just going to Church on Sunday, celebrating Holy Mass on Sunday, is never enough.  We need to spend time with God on Sunday and to spend time with God’s Word.  We should also spend some time doing good for others.  In this way we come to know God’s love more completely and to live as Jesus did, following His path to the Father.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip