Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34B-37
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, the holy convocations, which you shall celebrate at the time appointed for them. In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, there shall be a passover offering to the Lord, and on the fifteenth day of the same month is the festival of unleavened bread to the Lord; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. For seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation: you shall not work at your occupations.
The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall raise the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall raise it.
And from the day after the sabbath, from the day on which you bring the sheaf of the elevation offering, you shall count off seven weeks; they shall be complete. You shall count until the day after the seventh sabbath, fifty days; then you shall present an offering of new grain to the Lord.
Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves and present the Lord’s offering by fire;
Speak to the people of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month, and lasting seven days, there shall be the festival of booths to the Lord. The first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations. Seven days you shall present the Lord’s offerings by fire; on the eighth day you shall observe a holy convocation and present the Lord’s offerings by fire; it is a solemn assembly; you shall not work at your occupations.
These are the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you shall celebrate as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the Lord offerings by fire—burnt offerings and grain offerings, sacrifices and drink offerings, each on its proper day.
Psalm 81:3-6, 10-11
Raise a song, sound the tambourine,
the sweet lyre with the harp.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our festal day.
For it is a statute for Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob.
He made it a decree in Joseph,
when he went out over the land of Egypt.
There shall be no strange god among you;
you shall not bow down to a foreign god.
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house.” And he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief.
In the reading from Leviticus today, we read the Lord’s commands to Moses regarding the days of rest, festivals, and the day of Atonement for sin. At first glance, we might consider these to be almost the more frivolous parts of the law. After all, why should it matter on what day God is honored and in what way? And why the gloomy dwelling on sin, and having to make sacrifices to be acceptable to God? But delving deeper, we see how these proclamations of rest, offering to God, and humbling oneself are necessary to maintain not only a loving relationship with God but awe of Him as God.
When we love someone, we express that love in many ways or love languages. We set aside time to spend just with them, no work, no distractions. We remember significant days and anniversaries, and we give them gifts. We share our hearts with them, even the darkest parts and the things of which we are most ashamed, and if we hurt them we are swift to beg forgiveness and try to make things right again. In these commandments, this is essentially what God is asking of His people; to set aside time just for Him, remember significant days and mark them with gifts, and to give Him all the secrets of their hearts and be in right relationship with Him. God makes this command so that the people will not take their God for granted, as both the lover of His people and the Almighty One who did and continues to do great things for them.
In the gospel today, we see what happens when the people do not keep this commandment in their hearts and take their God for granted, not recognizing Him in their midst. Here they marvel at the deeds of power and wise words of Jesus, but ironically because of the very nearness of their God, they cannot believe in or accept Him.
It is easy to take the most significant people in our lives the most for granted, and even more so to take for granted the God who is so near to us, loves us so much, is so fearsome in His power but so tender in His mercies. Today, take some time to remember the good things that God has done for you, and the people He has sent into your life to love and empower you with sincere gratitude. Then look and pray for opportunities to express that gratitude and to fall even deeper in love with the God we cannot see yet is ever near.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to dwell among us and for always being near to me every moment of my life. Thank you for the good things in my life as well as the hard things that have made me stronger. Help me to never become hard-hearted toward You or take You for granted, but to love You ever more and become a channel of Your love to the world. St. John Vianney, pray for us!