When I was growing up, 65 years ago and in Infant School, one of the first religious texts that we had to learn by heart was the Ten Commandments. I always needed help getting the Commandments in the right order. Hence, I paid the price from my teacher. However, one of the commandments which always stuck in my mind was, ‘Keep Holy the Sabbath Day’. For us, it meant going to 6.00 AM Mass….in Latin, a baked Dinner for Lunch, and no work in the house or in the garden.
The Sabbath over the centuries was about fulfilling scrupulously exact rules in order to be on the good side of God.
In the Gospel today, some of the Pharisees questioned Jesus about his living out of the Sabbath, along with the behaviour of his Apostles. Jesus makes it quite clear that when it comes to a vital human need, it takes precedence over Sabbath rules.
The Sabbath!!!! Its origins, meaning and practice???? In the creation story, God rested on the last day of creation! God was not tired; God reflected upon and gazed into Creation with joy and thanksgiving.
For us, human needs come first, but the Sabbath invites us to reflect and gaze back into the week, pinpointing those times when we have seen the saving hand of God at work in our own lives and the lives of God’s people! Our response? To give thanks and praise to God. Do we do that not only on Sundays but in the Evening times of our week? Food for thought.
Kevin Walsh is a priest in the Diocese of Parramatta in Sydney. He has been formed in the Passionist tradition, and Ministers to the Aged, the Sick, the Dying and the Bereaved.