The Pharisees are at it again – trying so hard to catch Jesus “in the act,” committing some sort of crime for which they could bring Him down. This time (much like every time), they think they’ve got Jesus since He and his disciples are picking grain on the sabbath.
The sabbath is supposed to be a holy day, a day of rest where no work is done. Clearly, picking grain “goes against the rules” and so the Pharisees question Jesus yet again. And, yet again, Jesus has a response, rooted in the Old Testament and pointing back to David.
Today’s whole Gospel reading revolves around the Pharisees’ misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the sabbath, its rules and how to observe it. For me, today’s Gospel also raises the question about our personal understanding of the sabbath.
Most of us can probably name and recite the Fourth Commandment: “Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.” When translated to the modern day, most of us would probably explain that commandment as being, “Go to Mass every Sunday.” Whether or not we do, indeed, go to Mass every Sunday (outside of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, of course), is a topic for another blog post on another day.
Let’s dive a little deeper into this idea of sabbath, though, and head all the way back to the beginning of the Bible to do so. In the Book of Genesis, chapter 1, God created the world in six days and then rested on the seventh. Why? Not because God was tired from all the hard work of creation. No, the seventh day of rest was intentional. God could have created the entire world in six hours or six seconds but He didn’t. The Hebrew word for seven is “sheva” which is also the Hebrew word for covenant. God was creating a covenant with his creation and the sign of His covenant was the sabbath day, a day of rest.
Also in the story of creation, God created man on the sixth day. Man’s first full day on the newly created earth is a day of rest. Before work, before anything else, man rested. The end of the creation cycle, that seventh day of rest, is the same end for which God created man – to rest with Him and in Him, to live in that original state of holiness in the garden. We still have that same end today, to rest with God and in God and to live in a state of holiness in the eternal garden of heaven.
So the question is – how seriously are you taking the sabbath? Are you spending intentional time with the Lord? Are you slowing down and keeping Him at the center of your day, as the priority? If not, it’s not too late to begin.
Erin Madden is a Cleveland native and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.