Dear Friends in Christ,
The Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent is always an account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Amazingly, this is one of the very few accounts that occurs twice in the readings of the Liturgical year. We have the account of the Transfiguration today and again on the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6. I am daily reminded of this great moment when I look at our beautiful tabernacle which has the images of Moses and Elijah. This, of course, is a reminder that Jesus was transfigured before the eyes of his disciples on Mount Tabor, and likewise, the bread we offer in the Eucharist along with our prayers, sorrows, joys, and indeed our very lives, are also changed. The bread and wine become the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in their substance and we are changed to become more fully alive in God. The destiny of our earthly journey is to live in the glory of God! This change which we so long for begins in the here and now. If we seek to live with God in the next life, we must begin to live with God in this life! This is the message of Lent. We are all called to repentance and conversion and that call is for today!
Living the Ten Commandments is key to unlocking a conversion of life. Over the years, I have tried to emphasize the importance of the Ten Commandments and, in particular, the Third Commandment, Remember to keep the Sabbath holy. Here in the parish we keep the offices closed including Social Services with Joseph’s Coat; we do not schedule business meetings or anything of the like. We have only those things that bring us together as a family; divine worship, faith formation, and communal life (food!). In my travels to the Holy Land, I have always been overwhelmed by what it is like to be in a place where the Sabbath rest is real. On the Jewish Sabbath, there are no cars, no work, no machinery, no commerce, and no business. All stores, factories, schools and businesses, are closed. The hustle and bustle evaporate with the setting of the sun on Friday. The Sabbath is quiet and slow and wonderful! It envelopes you and you can feel the tension and stress of the week melt away. It is a time for God and family.
For nearly two millennia Sunday was a special day for Christians. It is the Lord’s Day. It is the remembrance of Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead. Sunday, as the Christian Sabbath, is the day of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Historically, Christians honored this victory by putting aside every day worldly pursuits. As the Lord’s Day, God was the focus of the day. Families gave praise to God in Holy Mass and in family prayer, rested from their labors, and spent time with one another. A highlight of Sunday was the Sunday family meal. The family of faith gathered for the sacrificial banquet of the Mass in Church and then individual families gathered in their homes for the Sunday feast. That would hardly be a description of Sunday for many Catholics today. For too many Sunday has lost its special and unique character. Sunday is just another day filled with busyness, distraction and worldly pursuits. Seeing this tragic loss of the sacred which has diminished and weakened families and the faith of families, the Archdiocese of Detroit started a program for families to help them observe and live the Sabbath. They started a few years ago by ending Catholic School athletic programs on Sundays. Since then, the Detroit archdiocese has developed a practical guide for Catholics to help reclaim the Lord’s Day for faith and families. The guide, 52 Sundays, contains helpful ideas for each week of the year. The guide can be downloaded here.
There are suggestions, ideas, and advice, to help families learn how to treat Sunday like Sunday. While there are a few very “Detroit specific” suggestions, there are many more helpful ideas that any family can implement. They even include recipes for Sunday meals!
The conversion of our lives starts with each of us re-ordering our lives. If we can begin to convert our busy schedules to make a day of rest, that is a marvelous beginning. Keeping the Lord’s Day holy is more than spending an hour in Mass. To undergo conversion takes deliberate effort. It is not automatic. Because we are so busy, we need to learn to slow down, pray and spend time with one another. Our call for conversion starts today!