Friday, February 27, 2009

Call the Sabbath a Delight

February 28, 2009

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

By Jack Finnerty

“If you call the sabbath a delight, and the LORD's holy day honorable; If you honor it by not following our ways, seeking your own interests, or speaking with malice Then you shall delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth….” Isaiah 58:13-14

“Jesus saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at the customs post. He said to him, "Follow me." And leaving everything behind, he got up and followed him. Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.” Luke 5:27-29

Create a clean heart in me, O God.
Create a clean heart in me.
Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness,
In your compassion, blot out my offense.
O wash me more and more from my guilt, from my guilt
And cleanse me, O lord, from my sin.
A pure heart create for me, O God,
Put a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence, O Lord,
Nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

(“Psalm 51: Be Merciful, O Lord,” Text: Psalm 51:3-4, 4-6, 12-13, 14, 17; The Grail, GIA Publications)


Note how closely the Matthew and Mark Gospels parallel Luke’s story of Levi.

Levi must have known Jesus, perhaps heard the stories of Him, maybe listened in the crowd as Jesus preached, or even witnessed the miracles Jesus was performing. However, as much or as little as Levi knew of Jesus, the Gospel suggests Levi’s immediate openness and acceptance to Jesus’ call. Levi did not need the spittle in his ears to hear, nor the mud paste in his eyes to respond to Jesus. Jesus’ call was enough.

After saying “Yes,” Levi then gave a great banquet for Jesus, opening his home and sharing his bounty with tax collectors and others. Levi chose as his dining companions those the Israelites considered the most despised, murderers and others guilty of heinous crimes. This first act of Levi, however, was following exactly the example of Jesus, sitting at a meal with tax collectors, not to show approval of sin, but to show them the good news of Christ as the only way to salvation. Create a clean heart in me, O God.

As the first week of Lent comes to a close and we prepare for Sunday, a feast day, not a day of Lenten fast or abstinence, we can prepare a banquet for our families and others whom we love. A time to celebrate, to eat and drink and share His love and His Good News with those we love.

The noted author Henri Nouwen, in his book “Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith,” writes:

“We all need to eat and drink to stay alive. But having a meal is more than eating and drinking. It is celebrating the gifts of life we share. A meal together is one of the most intimate and sacred human events. Around the table we become vulnerable, filling one another's plates and cups and encouraging one another to eat and drink. Much more happens at a meal than satisfying hunger and quenching thirst. Around the table we become family, friends, community, yes, a body…. The table is the barometer of family and community life. Let's do everything possible to make the table the place to celebrate intimacy.”

As we share our food and drink with those we love, others do not have such company. During these cold months of the year, many homeless men, women, and children in this area desperately need housing and other services. For the fifth year, area faith communities are partnering with a local nonprofit and County agencies to prevent hypothermia by providing overnight shelter during the winter. Mother Theresa told us “You must seek your own Calcutta. You don’t have to go to India. Calcutta is all around you.”

Churches and people that have found their own Calcutta have been successfully sheltering each night hundreds of our most vulnerable homeless neighbors in church halls and basements; fed nutritious, hot meals in comfortable surroundings; and released in the morning with a filling bag lunch to sustain them during the day. have conducted clothing drives, food drives, “undie Sundays” to meet the ever-present need for underwear and personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, razors, soap, etc. Even more important perhaps, are the dozens of volunteers that staff the temporary shelters nightly until the weather warms, meeting the material and physical needs of the guests and attempting to satisfy their other emotional and spiritual needs.


For those of us who have known of Jesus all our lives, heard the stories, listened to the homilies, and partaken so often of His body in Holy Eucharist, do we respond to His call to us as quickly and unequivocally as Levi? Jesus and His Holy Spirit speak to us in many ways and often (how about all those close moments?), what is our response? How quickly and unequivocally do we say “yes?”

Prepare the table for Sunday, make the Lord’s day honorable and the sabbath a delight.

Support ministries such as the Hypothermia Shelter by your prayers, donations, and service in your churches as the opportunities arise. Find your own Calcutta!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please take a few moments to listen to "The Sabbath Song" composed by Loretta Weinberger. It will bring peace and joy to your Sabbath.