“I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (John 10.10) these words of Jesus don’t sound as if he wants us to be bound by rules and regulations that were in place set by the Pharisees in Jesus’ time.
Sabbath from the Hebrew “Shabbat”, to rest, desist, is the day of rest and abstention from work. It also served as a memorial of God resting from the work of creation (Genesis 2:1-3) it also gave servants, strangers and working animals an opportunity to rest (Exodus 23:12). In time, customs and traditions that were meant to facilitate our deeper love to faith became rigid and unyielding. They became the be-all and end-all of spirituality rather than the means.
In today’s gospel, we see Jesus satisfying a basic human need of satisfying one’s hunger, which is more important than mere adherence to the laws about the Sabbath as a day of strict observance of rituals and laws.
I prefer to see the Sabbath/Sunday as a day for us all to have a day of rest and a time spent renewing our inner life, whatever that might mean to each one of us e.g. going to Mass as a thanksgiving for the week that’s been, or strength for the week to come. For others, it may mean enjoying time with family and friends for others, it may be a time to commune with nature.
The Original intention of the sabbath was for us to have space to contemplate the wonderful love of God. so instead of making the sabbath a joyful encounter with a loving God, it became an exercise of self-restraint with a corresponding sense of guilt if one cannot fulfil the prohibition. Thus, Jesus has to remind the Pharisees of the purpose of the Sabbath. It is to make believers fully human, fully alive.
Elizabeth Buchel has worked as an educator and psychologist for many years. She is formed in Passionist and Benedictine Spirituality. Elizabeth is a Passionist Companion and has been a active parishioner of St Brigids Marrickville since 1985.