Friday, July 17, 2009

Come Aside and Rest Awhile

I went to daily Mass with my parents the other day. They still go to the same church I grew up in, though the building has changed. The readings and homily were about the Sabbath. The Old Testament reading about how the Jews were to keep the Passover, and the Gospel about the Jewish leaders reprimanding Jesus' apostles for pulling grain heads on the sabbath because they were hungry - this was considered "work", not allowed on the sabbath. Father Ted's teaching on that day's Word addressed the preoccupation we tend to have these days with work. How we rarely take time to rest anymore. Frequently we don't rest until illness or disability overtake us. We're in a hurry to fulfill our Sunday "obligation" so we can get back to work. How even sometimes priests will rush through the Mass to get people out in a timely manner.

How often I have complained about this very thing when attending Masses in the "big city". I've called it the Speed Mass. To me, there is a very mechanical feel to it, a seeming lack of reverence. I am so grateful that some of these same priests have since slowed the pace a bit. After all, those who come to daily Mass are really there by choice, and not because of "obligation". Also addressed in that day's homily was this sense of "obligation". For years we were taught that Sunday Mass was a requirement, and that missing it was a mortal sin. Well, it still is, but see it through the teaching of Father Ted: rest is a natural part of the rhythm of life. Rest is necessary in order to keep working. We are given this great blessing of rest and spiritual refreshment time one day a week.

My thoughts on this - someone bigger than our boss says we need a day off once a week, to relax and refresh our minds, rest our bodies. Can we refrain just one day a week from unnecessary work and come together as community to give thanks and praise to our Creator? Love and support to one another? Not "obligation", but a joy and pleasure. A treat. One day to clear our minds so that we can think better the rest of the week? One day to rest our bodies (or maybe to exercise our sedentary ones) so that we can work better the other six? Is it more important to make money in the short term by working (for money) on Sunday? Or is it better to make just that one day holy, to care for our bodies and minds and souls, for better health in the long run, and eternal life at the end of our mortal days?

I spent many years working on the Sabbath. I see now I had other options. It took more years than I will admit to here for me to come to the conclusion that I will keep Sunday holy. Since that time, Mass has not ever been an "obligation" for me. It has been joyfully anticipated and gladly celebrated. I jealously guard my Sunday rest time, and allow myself the indulgence of an afternoon spent reading or lying around. Of course, there does come the occasion when I have to round up goats that have escaped from their enclosure, or tend to a sick animal, family member or friend. But Jesus addresses that issue in later Gospel readings. Today He asks us to "come aside and rest awhile".

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