The Importance of The Sabbath
“… on the Sabbath.…”
Oh, that thorny Sabbath! It seems that every time Jesus turns around he is locking horns with someone over this day of rest. Today a man appears, suffering the joint pain and fever of edema, and everybody else wrangles over what’s “lawful.” Since Jesus is sharing a meal with lawyers of the Torah, whose giftedness lies in their razor-sharp minds, Jesus shrewdly frames his question to them in legal terms. Then, typically, he takes everyone a step further, from a father’s—and his Father’s—perspective, effortlessly healing the man in the process. They’re dumbfounded. Apparently they forgot who heals. If God heals—they suppose that this Jesus has no curative power of his own—then God must want to make his loved ones whole even on the Sabbath, especially on the Sabbath. With his example, Jesus challenges them to examine what this rest is really for.
They know that it hearkens back to Genesis, when God rested from creating the world. God wasn’t saying, “Finally we’re done!” God’s rest was not, as some imagine, divine inactivity. Look around: creation continues, even on Shabbat. God is pictured rejoicing at all that’s been accomplished and at how very good it is (see Gn 1:31). Through it, God, Israel’s bridegroom, reveals his love to his bride. How could Jesus not honor this rest and make this loved one whole? The Sabbath foreshadows that day when Jesus will share with us the ultimate rest he himself entered into with his risen humanity. “… a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God” (Heb 4:9). In Christian tradition, observance of Friday is meant to prepare us for the observance of Sunday. Why not begin anew with this Friday? How different our world would be if we paid more attention to this rhythm, two days in tandem, lived in tandem with the restorative life of God. This is the obedience of faith that is a condition for entering into God’s rest (Heb 4:1 ff.).
“Lord even of the Sabbath,” I could use a reality check. How often Sundays have been the day I can either get my personal or family chores and shopping done, or pursue my interests without thinking of yours. What am I doing to my life? To others’ lives? To society? Besides my need for a little rest and recreation, I need time to focus the lens of my life on you. Help me find my happiness in looking to your glory—and that’s me, us, fully alive, alive in you.
May I rest in you.
Daughters of St. Paul. (2011). Ordinary Grace Weeks 18–34: Daily Gospel Reflections. (M. G. Dateno & M. L. Trouvé, Eds.) (pp. 236–237). Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media.