During our January retreat in Tucson, the Region XIII bishops heard just a little bit from Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI regarding the sabbath. I found what he had to say very true for our culture today, and have continued to think of several things in association with this commandment of our God. Let’s look again at the commandment: Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. 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 either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)
The first important point to remember is this is a commandment. It is amazing how much our busy world and culture overrides this commandment of God. These days, this commandment is more like a “suggestion” or “consideration”, which makes it easy to dismiss, and divorce from the authoritative instruction received directly from God. Once we are comfortable easily dismissing the commandments of God, we are just one short step away from dismissing God Himself. Within the context of commandment, we see this teaching as something given by God to all of humanity for our good. Keeping this day as a day of rest is meant to not only give us rest from our regular work, but is meant to help us rejoice in our foundational relationship with God. This thought alone is worth our prayerful attention, particularly in this season of Lent which calls us back to God, to re-orient our lives to the source of Life. This is what keeping the sabbath holy is all about.
How often today do we think to our self, or hear others say, “We are too busy!”? Our mass communication culture has not simplified our life (although that is very possible), but rather has put us “on call” 24-7-365. We have cell phones, computers, and all kinds of devices today that make us constantly on the search for “more”. It is no wonder so many people have trouble sleeping. We are continually “stimulated” by all kinds of entertainment and information, and have lost the art of “cultivating” the “interior life”, which is God’s dwelling place in us. This is very much what a holy sabbath means to cultivate; time with our God, and anyone and anything that deepens this fundamental relationship of love. The sabbath is meant to put us in touch with the things of creation that make us rejoice in our God, in His beauty, greatness, and life-sustaining love.
A good starting point then for us to keep the sabbath holy is to think about “what puts me in touch with God?”. Hopefully, at the top of this list are realtionships such as family and friends. As noted in earlier blog posts, we are made for relationship. Jesus, who is The Revelation of God, chose to be born into not just the family of humanity, but into a real human family. Jesus called people to a relationship, a deep and meaningful friendship with Himself. And He continues to do so today. So, at best, sabbath is meant to spend time with family and friends, and certainly, with God’s family, the Church, through Sunday Mass. This is the heart of our joy and celebrating all the goodness we have recieved from God in the person of Jesus Christ! God rested after creating all of creation. Have we lost the capacity to “stop and smell the roses”? Can we allow ourselves to be “thrilled” at the beauty of a sunrise or sunset? Do we seek out the beauty of the skies in the stars and the moon, and allow these constellations to lead us to an interior hymn of adoration of the God Who made them? These are ways I enjoy the sabbath, and I challenge all of you to think about the use of the sabbath. Be reminded that it is a day God set aside do renew us in His life and love. So much of the “chase of our mass media culture” is to fill up something within us that only God can fill. Let’s open ourselves again to the Creator, and allow our God to fill us with all that is Good and Beautiful and True, His Son, Jesus Christ!0