As devotees of Mary’s Apparition at La Salette, we often reflect on her words about the important place ofworshipping God at the Eucharist. In effect, she is reminding us of the fourth commandment. The full version of this commandment, seldom quoted, is found in the Book of Exodus with the accompanying reason God asked a Sabbath and how we should conduct ourselves on that special day:
Remember the Sabbath day—keep it holy. 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 work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20: 8-11)
We Christians need to reflect more deeply on this call to Sabbath. Let me begin with a true story told by Jacob, a friend of Wayne Muller, a Christian, who wrote the book, “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives” (Bantam Books, New York, 1999). He writes:
“When Sheila and I were married, her grandparents gave us a brand-new washer and dryer. It was a very generous gift, and we were very grateful to receive such a blessing for our new home. But when they presented them to us, her grandfather explained that this was a Jewish washer and dryer. ‘What makes them Jewish?’ I asked, naively. Sheila’s grandfather replied with a twinkle, ‘They won’t work on Shabbat (the Sabbath day).’”
Yes, no matter what religious tradition we claim, the truth of the matter is that we all need a type of Shabbat, a time of rest and relaxation, an opportunity for prayer and gratefulness in order to center us on God and God’s gift of faith as we live in this fast-paced world of ours.
Many religious traditions allude to or celebrate some version of the practice of Sabbath. Even before the Hebrews, the Babylonians celebrated a day of rest. Buddhists, Christians and Muslims do as well. It seems to be a recurrent desire to take time to rest and refresh our weary souls.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition this habit is first cited in the book of Genesis where it describes that “On the seventh day (of creation) God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work he had done in creation” (Gen 2:2-3).
In Moses’ exhausting journey with the Israelites, wandering through the desert, he said to the Lord, “See, you are telling me: Lead this people… The Lord answered: I myself will go along, to give you rest” (Exodus 33:12,14). In other words, God will provide.
For Christians, we recall Jesus reminding us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). God reminds us to take the time to rest in God’s love and presence.
In reality, we are the ones who need to take action and respond to our innate call to “do Sabbath” – whether, according to our tradition, on Friday, Saturday or Sunday or on any other day.
The truth is that we all need to go out of our way to “find rest”, to take time off to refresh ourselves and our family, as we hopefully do during vacation time and on our weekly Sabbath or at least on weekends. Rabbi Reb Zalman has a wonderful way to begin our Sabbath by saying “Today I am going to pamper my soul.”
So, what are you going to do to “pamper your soul” this week? For those who are of the strict Jewish observance, they have their weekly Sabbath traditions. For others, doing Sabbath may mean making sure to enjoy fully our time spent with our family or friends – and not forgetting to give thanks to God for these most precious gifts.
Doing Sabbath may also mean setting aside the time to visit a sick person, sharing our concern and love. For still others it might mean worshipping together.
And to do Sabbath may simply mean for us a time of re-creation or recreation with each other. What a shame not to take time to Sabbath with them, enjoying their company, their love, their unique and lasting gift to our lives. As Catholics we can do this through responding to our weekly invitation to celebrate the Eucharist, as Our Weeping Mother indicated.
And perhaps the last important question about our chosen Sabbath day just might be, “Do we have a Catholic washer and dryer?”