Keeping the Sabbath

Thursday of the 26th Week in Ordinary Time

Neh 8: 1-4a, 5-6, 7b-12; Luke 10: 1-12

Dc. Larry Brockman

Keep Holy the Sabbath! It’s one of the ten-commandments, you know.

The reading from Ezra kind of sums it up for the people of his time. Everyone came; and everyone showed reverence and respect for the God whose words they were about to hear. Then everyone listened to the word of God; after which the Priest broke down the word for them; he explained and interpreted the word. Then the Lord was Blessed; the day was called holy;, and a banquet of rich food and drink was advised. People were told to put aside their concerns, and to celebrate the day of the Lord.

You know what? We have carried that Sabbath tradition forward. It is precisely what we are supposed to do including Mass each Sunday and the day of rest that comes with it. Only the banquet that we participate in is the richest of food and drink- the body and blood of Jesus himself.

But let me ask this: Whatever happened to “Keep Holy the Sabbath” in our society?  Is our celebration limited to the one hour a Sunday we attend Mass? Or is our Sunday a holy observance of the Sabbath where we put aside the things of this world and celebrate God’s goodness with family and friends, rejoicing in God’s gifts to us, not the least of which is his holy word as proclaimed in the scriptures and broken down in the homily.

It’s really a matter of priorities, isn’t it? Kind of like the environment talked about in the Gospel. Jesus sends out 72 folks in pairs as a precursor to his visit to the towns in Israel. He is testing their attitudes- will they open their minds and hearts to the message, or will they be closed off and preoccupied with their own agendas? Jesus asks his disciples to focus on Peace and the Kingdom of God. And the peace that he is talking about is an internal peace- a peace of mind; a charitable peace; a peaceful spirit capable of overlooking the pressures and duties of the day in order to have time to reflect on things that are beyond and above the world; namely what they believe and the Kingdom that will come. It is as if these 72 disciples were sent out to prepare the folks in each village for the coming of the Lord on the Sabbath. They were sent to just one house; but their mission was communal- the people of the community. Would they be open, would they be ready, and would they be welcoming? Did they have a “Sabbath” attitude?

I am not sure how many of us really have a “Sabbath” attitude on Sundays these days. I think it’s because we confuse “rest” with “recreation”. But the commandment tells us that we need to pull away from the world, and “rest”- by recognizing and worshiping the one true God, and then reflecting on His message. But we are to do that communally; not just as individuals, celebrating all that God has done for us.

The people of Ezra’s time got it right. But are we doing the same, truly keeping the Sabbath?


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