Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Sabbath Was Made for Man

Tuesday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

By Melanie Rigney

God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones. We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises. (Hebrews 6:10-12)
The Lord will remember his covenant for ever. (Psalms 111:5)
(After Jesus replied to the Pharisees’ rebuke about the disciples picking heads of grain on the Sabbath, he said:) “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28)

Lord, help me to take time to slow down, rest, reflect, and praise You in the silent moments.


Even reading or saying the word makes you smile and sigh a bit. The sibilant ess, the hard pair of b’s, and that closing th that almost begs to be followed by a deep breath and an “ah.” It gives you momentary peace.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminds the Pharisees what Sabbath is…and what it is not. It is a time of rest, not a time so chockfull of rules and admonitions that there can be no rest. In some ways, the Sabbath conditions placed on the children of Israel might be considered analogous to our own, personal “rules” about Sabbath: I’ll sit quietly after Mass… just as soon as my emails are all answered. I’ll say a rosary… just as soon as the groceries are bought and put away and the errands are run. I’ll reflect on the day’s readings… just as soon as I finish the laundry and the rest of my to-do list. Our priorities are out of whack. We forget that time with God and our replenishment so that we may share the Good News rank anything else on our lists.

The Catholic Catechism puts it this way: “If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to ‘rest’ and should let others, especially the poor, ‘be refreshed.’ The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.

As someone who struggles to keep the Sabbath, on Sunday or any other day, I was moved recently when a dear friend, Letitia Suk, gave me a copy of Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives. I had shared with Tish that I knew I was copping out to the concept of Sabbath by saying that I spend the time in activity honoring the Lord and so it’s all good. I read Sabbath slowly at two different retreat centers in a two-month period; too many distractions arose when I tried to read it at home. The book is rich with stories and advice from people, famous and otherwise, from a number of faith traditions. But the words that most resonated with me come early in the book:

Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. … Sabbath does not require us to leave home, change jobs, go on retreat, or leave the world of ordinary life. We do not have to change clothes or purchase any expensive spiritual equipment. We only need to remember.

As for me, finding Sabbath in a familiar setting is still difficult. Maybe it is for you as well. May we remember what Jesus tells us in Mark 2—he’s in charge of Sabbath, and he desires us to find peace and joy in it—and Him.


Stop what you’re doing right now, and spend fifteen minutes in Sabbath, no matter where you are or what day of the week it is. 

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