Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lord of the Sabbath

In today's Gospel (Mark 2:23-28), Jesus defends the "work" his disciples were doing on the sabbath - picking grain as they walked. He tells the Pharisees that "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." This was because there were some, like these Pharisees, who thought that the prohibition against work on the sabbath, an outgrowth of the third commandment received by Moses, meant you could not even do those things that were necessary to preserve your life or the life of another. Certainly this was a ridiculous extreme by our standards.
Unfortunately, today many would interpret this as meaning that we are free to do anything we want on our sabbath (Sunday) and we will not break the commandment to Keep that day holy. And even those of us who do try and go to church on Sunday, usually anything goes for the rest of the day. We tend to forget the second part of the statement made by Jesus. "The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath”, he said. This means that we do not have the authority to do away with the commandment and treat the day like any other.
Certainly there are many people who, because of job and other obligations, must clean the house or shop on Sundays. Any, just as the Lord supported his disciples picking the grain because they needed to eat, we will not be held at fault for taking care of the necessities of life on a Sunday. But how often do we save up jobs during the week because "I will have more time on Sunday." When Sunday becomes a "work day", even if around the house, simply because we do not feel like doing those chores during the week, we have a problem.
You see, the idea is not simply "I cannot do any unnecessary work on Sunday." No, the commandment says that I must keep holy the Lord's day. So, the question becomes: What am I doing to keep the Lord's day holy? And, while going to church may take an hour or two of my day, it is not sanctifying the entire day. What do I do differently on Sunday to focus my attention on God? How can I better plan my time so I am able to read scripture, enjoy the love of friends or family, discover Jesus in the midst of my life?
If we can begin to answer these questions, perhaps our Sunday habits will change. And maybe this Sunday we will begin to acknowledge Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath.

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