Scripture for Aug. 2. Lectionary # 405. Leviticus 23:1.4-11.15-16.27.34-37. Psalm 81:3-4.5-6.10-11. Matthew 13:54-58:
After reading and reflecting on the dynamic selections from the Book of Exodus, we have the important chapter that describes the festivals and the Day of Atonement in chapter 23 of Leviticus—a liturgical history of the feasts and worship of God in the calendar of the Israelites. It is important to celebrate the great things that God has done (themirabilia Dei) in Exodus by such festivals that recall God’s presence and leadership in the community that wandered for forty years in the desert of Sinai. Found in this chapter are the festivals of Passover (Pesach), the Unleavened Bread, the feast of Weeks , seven weeks after Passover (Shevuoth), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Booths (Sukkoth).
These festivals spring from the great event of the Exodus whereby the Chosen People are given a Land in which they are free and can with joy celebrate the memory of God always being with them in their wanderings in the desert to their entrance in the Land (Ha Aretz). Worship and sacrifice and prayer are part of that holy memory that keeps God alive in hearts and gives a vision of hope for the future. Found within these celebrations are joy, peace, communal prayer and festivity, worship, and, yes, even sacrifice (Day of Atonement). All make us one with God in the appropriate texts and rituals these festivals recall so as to experience them once again in the present. Thanksgiving for the Covenant and the graces and blessings it brings are at the heart of the celebration.
All peoples need to remember God’s liberating actions among us and to celebrate them with our distinct liturgical forms of worship and festivity. We then experience the “pause” necessary for leisure, recreation, and contemplation of God. We take in the warmth and comfort of God’s breath on these days and we remember we are images and likeness of God.
The wonderful Psalm 81 is a Psalm of celebration that takes place in a community of believers gathered in the Temple. This hymn recalls God’s fidelity to the covenant made with God’s people. It is associated with both Passover and the Feast of Booths and also the foundational event of Exodus. In the Psalm we experience the harmony and peace of God’s dwelling among the people. They sing this hymn as a song of prayerful joy and love. Salvation history is celebrated throughout the hymn. Nature and grace are embracing one another in the verses. God is ever faithful and wants the people to listen to their story of how mercy and fidelity are their gifts from the Lord their God. They rejoice, pray, and offer God thanksgiving in these festivals of Israel celebrated in the Temple. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.