Monday, January 16, 2017

Inheriting the Promises

By Melanie Rigney

James Tissot. Disciples Eat Wheat on the
Sabbath (Brooklyn Museum)
Brothers and sisters: 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. (Psalm 111:5)

“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)

“You must also tell the Israelites: Keep my sabbaths, for that is to be the sign between you and me throughout the generations, to show that it is I, the Lord, who make you holy. .. Six days there are for doing work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord.” (Exodus 31: 13, 15)

Sabbath. On the surface, this should be one of the easiest commandments to keep. Who doesn’t realize that the human mind and body need the kind of rest that is found only in time spent with the Lord?

But we get… itchy. There’s so much to do, in our families, in our parishes, in our other ministries, and our secular world obligations. Sure, we give lip service to the Fourth Commandment, but who really gets hurt if we skate around it a little? Just what kind of a parent are you if you’re not schlepping a talented child to Sunday sports practices? Just what kind of an employee (or boss) are you if you don’t check your phone frequently on Sundays? Just what kind of a sister or brother in Christ are you if you don’t attend that routine ministry meeting scheduled for Sunday because everyone is too busy on weekday evenings?

But here’s the thing. The Lord gave us the Sabbath to make us free—free so that we remember who it is who gave us life, to slow down and find peace and pleasure in Him. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean sitting in total silence for the entire day. But it does mean casting out the “to-do” list and obligations, even just for a few hours.

In his marvelous book Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest, Wayne Muller observes:

Sabbath requires surrender. If we only stop when we are fished with all our work, we will never stop, because our work is never completely done. With every accomplishment, there arises a new responsibility… Sabbath dissolves the artificial urgency of our days because it liberates us from the need to be finished.

We can be a slave to our children, to our job, to our best intentions. Or we can acknowledge what Muller calls that “artificial urgency” of finishing what will never be finished… and dedicate ourselves to spending some quality time each week with the One who was with us in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. The choice is ours. It should be a simple one.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins tomorrow. Consider participating in activities… or spending some Sabbath time discussing faith with a non-Catholic Christian.

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