Pause… for the Sabbath

Written by Sr. Rosemary Finnegan, O.P.
Readings from:

Here’s a little quiz for you based on our gospel:

  1. What does the Sabbath, or day of rest, mean to you?
  2. How often do you think of the Sabbath as God’s gift to you?

And one last question to make all of us feel even more guilty about how we spend our Sabbath:

  1. Since it is the 3rd Commandment, how do you observe the Sabbath?

We all lead busy lives.  It’s hard for us to just stop, even on occasion, to not think of Sunday as extra time to ‘catch up on unfinished tasks’, and to appreciate this gift of rest from work in our personal lives.

In our gospel, when Jesus’ disciples broke off grains of wheat on the Sabbath to eat, the Pharisees considered this work.  But Jesus discounted their interpretation of what it means to rest from work on the Sabbath and 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.”

So, what needs of ours are Jesus addressing?  They are, namely:  rest from regular work, enjoyment of creation, connecting with family and friends, renewing special relationships, worship and prayer… other words, our spiritual, physical, emotional and relational refreshment.  The bottom line is:  God set aside a day of rest so that our bodies and our spirits may regularly focus primarily on God, others, and the goodness of creation.

In Judeo-Christian life, the Sabbath is a central and holy duty before God. It affirms our belief that we are dependent on God who cares for us and sustains all creatures and creation. Ultimately, we all belong to God, and God knew we needed, for our own spiritual well-being, to set aside time to stop our normal activities and focus on the sacred.

One of the best books I’ve read is called ‘The Sabbath’ by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.  Two of my favorite quotes of his are:

  1. ‘The Sabbath…is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation, from the world of creation to the creation of the world.’
  1. ‘The Sabbath is the inspirer; the other days are inspired.’

Earlier I asked: How do you observe the Sabbath?  The ways are many, but they need to be regular and intentional:

  • Go to Mass,
  • read some extra Scripture,
  • unplug from social media, or at least put an ‘out of office’ notice on your email,
  • visit a friend,
  • take your dog to the dog park,
  • or spend quiet time listening to soothing music.

Figure out what pause in activity your soul needs and honor that action. Renew your Sabbath, and your Sabbath will renew you.