“Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” – Deuteronomy 5:13-15
We are slaves to many things in our daily lives; work, commutes, money, material goods, physical fitness, sex, food, sports, entertainment… even family life and religion can become our master. I only have to look at what is consuming my mind and my time to identify what or who it is I serve. While I must work to provide the necessities of life, I must not allow myself to be lost to the work. It is a tricky balancing act. I can easily become overwrought with the endless to-do list ever looming over me. It can be exhausting. I become agitated, weary, and anxious; in fear of never getting it all done. I am a gerbil on the treadmill of life. I am in need of rest.
“Remember that you too were once slaves…and the Lord, your God, brought you out… with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
He delivered us. His majestic arm is outstretched to us. He is calling us to come to Him, to rest in Him, to seek Him. I know I need rest. Not merely rest but renewal. After a long day and even longer week, I need to be revived. To where should I go for this rejuvenation? Do I go to my bed? Or maybe I head to the gym or the spa? Will I find it in the mall or in food or alcohol? Or will it be seen in mindlessly watching episode after episode of my latest favorite Netflix binge? Have any of these activities ever left me feeling reinvigorated or transformed for the better? Do they fill my heart with the sense of wonder that comes with acknowledging that all I have and am, comes from a gracious and loving God who thirsts for me? He longs for us with an outstretched arm to come to Him; rest in Him. Our Creator desires our attention. And, He commands us to make the Sabbath day holy.
Sunday is Church day. It is the day of the Lord. He commanded it for our good. Jesus tells us, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath…” (Mark 2:27). Our bodies and our minds need to be set free from the things of this world. Our spirit needs to be reset and strengthened. It is not for God’s benefit that I should choose to suspend all activity and turn toward the Lord, glorifying Him. I offer all the stuff of my life- the good and the bad- to Him in praise and thanksgiving. In my coming to Him, He heals my brokenness, He nourishes my soul. He lifts me up and lightens my burdens. And, it is for my betterment that my attention is focused on Him. Naming the graces in my life creates in me a grateful more generous heart. My mind and spirit are awakened; reminding me that my thoughts and actions are often self-centered rather than God-centered.
I expend my energy on many things, some fruitful and others not so much. Am I, as St. Ignatius of Antioch described to early Christians, “living in accordance with the Lord’s Day”? Am I building my days, weeks and life around this holy day and the commands of the Lord? Is the rhythm of my daily routine set around seeking God? Freedom to choose is an extravagant thing. I may consciously or not choose all sorts of things to be my master, but none will fill me with the magnificent beauty and peace that is an encounter with our Lord. We breathe because He loves us. We exist because He said it was good. Simply put we are His. Why then, am I searching anywhere else for the peace and joy only He provides? It is a lack of humility in me. Humility says He is God and I am not. A humble heart can see the gifts in all things good or terrible. When I don’t stop to praise God who is everything, my vision has become obscured and I cannot see the abundant blessings all around me.
We ought to go to Church on Sunday not because it fulfills a commandment or because we fear we will anger God, but because we desire to. We need to gather together and sing praises of thanksgiving for a God who has delivered us, set us free. I need and want to celebrate the many wonders and blessings He has done for me. The Sabbath day is for me to seek God, to joyfully pour out my tired and weary soul on the altar, humbly asking our Lord to make me new. Participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass is the ultimate prayer for us as Catholics. Our prayers are joined together and lifted up to the Lord around the world. We are united with Jesus in a special way in the Eucharist. The peace my heart has been longing for is found there, so completely. It is a beautiful gift for which I am unworthy. God is with us indeed. It is a miracle that leaves me in awe. I am so moved I am often brought to tears. My heart and soul experience a joy, a peace, and a love that is so awesome it cannot and should not be contained. This love, this joy, must be lived and shared. It must not remain behind in the pew but be carried out into the world to be seen and heard. The attention I give to Sunday, the Sabbath day, is not about an obligation I must fit into my week but it is about the longing of my heart; my soul which is seeking the One who loves perfectly.
“’Living in accordance with the Lord’s Day’ means living in the awareness of the liberation brought by Christ and making our lives a constant self-offering to God, so that His victory may be fully revealed to all humanity through a profoundly renewed existence.” ~Pope Benedict XVI