Ex 20:1-17; 1Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25
3rd Sunday of Lent
This week, if you are reflecting upon the Sunday readings ahead of time, be sure to read the long version of the first one (verses 1-17 in their entirety). If you don’t, you’ll miss the explanation given for the third commandment – Keep holy the Sabbath. Here’s the key verse: “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.”
In other words – If the Creator of the Universe can take a day off, so can we. In fact, we are blaspheming against the Creator if we don’t.
Sadly, this Commandment has been whittled down through the centuries in the Church so that I suppose most Catholics today understand it as a commandment to go to Mass on Sunday – kicking and screaming if necessary. If you don’t…..no salvation for you! (Say that last part with the accent of the “Soup nazi” from the Steinfeld television series to get the full affect.)
This idea is just about the opposite of what the Commandment intends. Yes, taking time to worship God as a community on the Sabbath – for Jews that’s Friday night to Saturday night, for most Christians the Sabbath is Saturday night to Sunday night – is intended to be at the heart of Sabbath observance. We got that part right.
This taking time to worship God as a community, however, is meant to be one piece with an overall Sabbath attitude of the heart – consciously taking time to abstain from work and relax. To pursue those activities and spend time with those people who help us connect with the sacredness of life’s journey. I remember growing up spending practically every Sunday celebrating the Big Italian Sunday Dinner. (I may not have used the word “celebration” when I was a teen-ager but I see now that’s what it was.) It doesn’t really matter how you celebrate the Sabbath in this wider sense – or even when, if you must work on Sunday ; what’s key is that you do celebrate the Sabbath.
This week, ask yourself – Do you need to abstain from work more than you need to abstain from food? Are you weighed down not by Christ’s cross – for Christ never lets that one get heavier than we can joyuously bear – but by a cross of your own making? There are many of these kinds of crosses, but the worst of all I think is the “I’m only important for what I do and not for who I am” cross.
If we don’t worship God by the joyous celebration of life we are engaged in outside of the chruch building it’s unlikely we’ll do much worshipping inside of it. either. And the last thing we need is more miserable Christians. We have enough of those already!
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(Patricia Leonard and I are leading two Lenten retreats this year – one on Monday nights at St. James parish in Seaford, NY and one on Wednesday nights at St Frances de Chantal parish in Wantagh , NY. Both begin at 7:30Pm and conclude between 8:30 -8:45 PM. Please come and pray with us if you are in the area.)