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The Gift of the Sabbath
Tuesday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time
It happened that one Sabbath day he was taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to make a path by plucking ears of corn. And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing something on the Sabbath day that is forbidden?” And he replied, “Have you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry? How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of the offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is master even of the Sabbath.”
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, you give me gifts that I need before I know that I need them. Thank you for the gift of the Sabbath. Open my heart that I may savor this gift and use it wisely.
- The Letter of the Law: In their attempts to follow the will of the Lord, the Jewish people added many rules to the Ten Commandments. This was evident in their requirements for the Sabbath. The Third Commandment reads: “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” In the Catechism of the Catholic Church 2184, we are reminded that “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.” The observance of the Sabbath was a gift to us, a chance to replenish and rest. The Pharisees turned it into a holy contest, an outward observation so stringent that clearing a path during a restful walk was considered “work” and violated the commandment. They followed the letter of the law and completely missed God’s intentions.
- Explaining the Gift: How Jesus, the man, must have wearied at the obtuseness of the Pharisees. How he must weary of our hard hearts as well! In this Gospel, Jesus gave a scriptural example of David’s behavior and reminded the Pharisees and all of us that “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Throughout history, the Sabbath has been a gift from the Lord to his people and a sign that we are his. The Hebrews enslaved in Egypt displayed a quiet strength and inner freedom by observing the Sabbath.
- Embracing the Sabbath: Instead of looking at our Sunday obligation as something to check off on our list, let us truly embrace the spirit of this law. In our busy world, the Lord invites us to take a day off, to spend some time with him in the liturgy, to enjoy a good meal with family, to watch a game or take a walk. We need this “time out,” and should consider what kinds of things we can do on Saturday so that Sunday is a true day of rest. When we prepare the day before, we are giving ourselves permission to delight in the Lord’s gift of the Sabbath.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, in all ways your love is displayed in your commandments. Teach me to embrace your gift of the Sabbath. Enlighten me so that all through this week I can prepare to take the Sabbath day to rest, refresh, and reconnect with you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will plan my week well, especially Saturday, so that I can make the Sabbath a day of rest and worship.
For Further Reflection: Reclaiming Sundays by Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland and has five adult children with her husband of thirty years. They owned and operated a family business for twenty-nine years. She is a member of Regnum Christi and has been active in the Leadership Training Program and Walking With Purpose.