Tuesday, February 10, 2009

And On The Seventh Day, God Rested From All That He Had Done

On the first four days, God had separated light from darkness; earth from sky; dry land from seas and lakes. Then he put trees, plants and grasses on the earth, the sun, moon and stars in the sky. The fifth day is devoted to living beings: birds in the air, whales, fish and all sorts of swimming creatures in the seas; cattle, creeping things and wild animals on the earth. Then, on the final day of creation, God made creatures in his own image: human beings, male and female. He gave them dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the creatures that move on the earth. Thus were the heavens and the earth and their entire array completed. On the seventh day, since he had finished the work he had been doing, God rested. He blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all that he had accomplished.

In the Hebrew tradition, the seventh day, the day of rest, (in Hebrew, Sabbath) is the day the Romans called Dies Saturnis (Saturday). There was also a twelve-month Sabbath every seven years, and an an even more jubilant festival every fifty years. In the Christian tradition, because Jesus rose from the dead on the day the Romans called “Dies Solis” (Sunday), our Sabbath is a day later than the Jewish Sabbath. As we learned in reading the Letter to the Hebrews, we are people of a New Covenant, and we have a new Sabbath because we are not bound to the laws of Moses, or to the interpretations of the Pharisees , the Temple Priests and the Teachers of that law. Sunday is our day of rest.

But is it? These days, it seems to be no Sabbath, no day of rest at all. It all began right here with a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court: Gallagher, Chief of Police of Springfield, Massachusetts, et. al. v. Crown Kosher Super Market of Massachusetts, Inc., et al. These days, all of us, regardless of our religious affiliation, find it easy to use Sunday as a time for catch-up work, for diversions from our “day job”, often at the expense of going to church together as a family, making the day a special time for the family to spend time together. In the city where the abolition of “blue laws” was initiated, churches of all denominations, including our own, have reduced the number of Sunday Masses, because there are so few worshippers in the pews. Cities which used to have a dozen Catholic parishes, now have closed or merged them into half as many.

In a week and a half Lent will begin. It is a season when we are called to assess our lives, be aware of our weaknesses, and ask the Lord for pardon and for strength. One way of achieving that goal and of strengthening our family bonds is by spending time together, starting by worshipping as a family with other the members of the family of God who form our parish. Let us not, as Jesus reminds us in the gospel, ignore God’s commandments but cling to human traditions.

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