Sabbath Blues

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Friday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time


Luke 14:1-6

On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking, “Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?” But they kept silent; so he took the man and, after he had healed him, dismissed him. Then he said to them “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” But they were unable to answer his question.


Opening Prayer: I know you are here, Lord. You are always at my side, and you are always on my side. You never stop thinking of me. You delight in me—this is why you created me, why you went to the cross for my sins, why you have gone to prepare a place for me in your Father’s house. I come to you today full of gratitude, wanting to praise you, to bless you, and to hear and heed whatever word you wish to speak to me.


Encountering Christ:


  1. Stuck on the Sabbath: The question of the Sabbath comes up repeatedly in the Gospels. In fact, a very similar encounter occurred just a few verses earlier in Chapter 13 of St. Luke’s Gospel. The Pharisees had the wrong idea about God’s commandments. They considered them a kind of obstacle course. Successfully navigating through them was a way of proving oneself, of showing oneself worthy of praise. But the commandments of God are never merely random rules of a game. They are linked to our very nature. Their purpose is to remind us of our purpose—to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Anytime the commandments of God or the teachings of the Church are separated from this root, they are easily misinterpreted. Jesus continues to challenge the Pharisees’ conception of the Sabbath, because the Pharisees had created so many stipulations regarding keeping the Sabbath that they had entirely lost sight of its true purpose. And they had done similar things with the other commandments as well. His question about rescuing a son or an ox who falls into a cistern, even on the Sabbath day, is meant to awaken them to a new avenue of reflection, an avenue that can help them get back on track. With what spirit do I see and understand the commandments and the teaching of the Church? Do I need to get back on track, in some way or another?
  2. A Surprising “Existential Periphery”: St. Luke points out that Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. This is worth noting for at least two reasons. First, by this time the Pharisees were already marshaling their power and influence against Jesus. They had set themselves up as his enemies. But Jesus continues to interact with them, to spend time with them, to try and reconcile with them. This is the spirit of Christ, who never gives up on anyone, no matter how hopeless they may seem to be. Is that my approach as well? Second, this encounter, which isn’t the only one of its kind in the Gospels, breaks down a common misunderstanding about Jesus. Very often, Jesus is depicted as a champion of the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized, to the exclusion of the popular, the wealthy, and the well-educated. This is a false opposition. It doesn’t come from the Gospels, but from modern sociopolitical agendas. Jesus was and is the champion of every human being. He came to bring his grace to every single person. He didn’t exclude or condemn the wealthy and successful. Rather, he simply pointed out that the poor and downtrodden often seem to be more open to the Gospel message than those who tend to be self-sufficient. But he reached out to all of them. In today’s world, the Church is called to do the same. We must find Christ in the poor, the sick, the materially underprivileged. But we must also find him in the rich and influential, the successful leaders in every sector of society. They deserve to receive the grace and truth of the Gospel as much as everyone else, and the societies they influence will only benefit if they do receive them. They must not be spiritually overlooked or written off. They must be evangelized.
  3. Our Sunday Observance: In today’s secularized world, we tend to err in a different way as regards our observance of the Lord’s Day. Instead of overemphasizing its difference, we can easily underemphasize it. Sunday doesn’t look too different, in many Catholics’ lives, than Saturday or even a weekday. Instead of being a true break in the demanding rhythms of the workaday world, and a time to renew and refresh our souls with joyful worship, restful contemplation, and relaxing family fellowship, it becomes a crowded and noisy catch-all and catch-up day. Much of the freneticism of today’s world could be better managed by all of us if we would make a firm decision to live the Lord’s Day as God commands us to live it—remember, his commandments are anchored in fundamental needs of human nature, fundamental dimensions of human life that help us flourish if we respect them and disrupt our flourishing if we don’t. Here is some of the Catechism’s description of the proper living of the Lord’s Day (2184-2185): Just as God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,” human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives. On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. How well does my normal Lord’s Day reflect those principles behind the Third Commandment? How eager am I to receive the blessings God wants to give me through my obedience to him in this area?


Conversing with Christ: At the deepest level, your will is for me to live life to the full, here on earth and with you forever in heaven after I die. Your commandments, the teachings of your Church, the duties of my state in life, the providential circumstances in which I live—these are all expressions of that fundamental will that I fulfill the dream you have for me. Please help me to always remember this. When the demands of your will feel burdensome to my fallen human nature, help me to see the bigger picture, to trust in you, and to joyfully embrace my cross, knowing that on the other side of every Good Friday, when I live it in union with you, there is always an Easter Sunday.


Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will talk with my family about how we live the Lord’s Day, and about how we might be able to live it better.

For Further Reflection: Read the section of the Catechism on the Third Commandment.


Written by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.

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