Monday, September 19, 2011

The Catholic Church: Sabbath, and The Lord's Day

Before retiring on Saturday night, I decided to pick up my copy of the Catechism to see what it had to say about observing the Sabbath. I knew it was one of the Ten Commandments, but realized I hadn't studied the Catechism to learn what it had to say about this particular commandment.

Section Two of the Catechism lists each commandment and how it relates to our Catholic faith. The article "The Third Commandment" was in the first section titled, "You Shall Love the Lord Your God With All Your Heart, and With All Your Soul, and With All Your Mind."

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work. 90

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath. 91

(90: Ex 20:8-10; cf. Deut 5:12-15, 91: Mk 2:27-28)

Within the Catholic Church, Sunday is called "The Lord's Day." However, within it is still the core purpose of what the Sabbath was created to do -- mainly, to allow God's creation, man and woman, a day of rest from their labors.

Within Mosaic Law, there were strict regulations of what Jews could and could not do on the Sabbath. Today there are still strict rules and rabbinical debates, discussions, and consultations over what is permissible on the Sabbath and what is not.

However, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17 RSV) As Christians, we are no longer under the Law, as St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans (emphasis mine):

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:19-26)

The Catholic Church considers Sunday attendance at Mass as a fulfillment of the Sabbath. I knew we were were obligated to attend Mass every Sunday, but for whatever reason, I never associated it with the Sabbath. I just thought the Church wanted to make sure we didn't go astray because once you start skipping Mass, it's all too easy to allow sin to enter into your life without even realizing it. (And to be certain, the Church does want to make sure that doesn't happen.)

But I was surprised to find this (II The Lord's Day):

Sunday - fulfillment of the sabbath

2175 Sunday is expressly distinguished from the sabbath which it follows chronologically every week; for Christians its ceremonial observance replaces that of the sabbath. In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man's eternal rest in God. For worship under the Law prepared for the mystery of Christ, and what was done there prefigured some aspects of Christ: 107

Those who lived according to the old order of things have come to a new hope, no longer keeping the sabbath, but the Lord's Day, in which our life is blessed by him and by his death. 108

2176 The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship "as a sign of his universal beneficence to all."109 Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people.

(107: Cf. 1 Cor 10:11, 108: St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Magn. 9, 1: SCh 10, 88)

So attending Mass is to "render to God and outward, visible, public, and regular worship" as a sign of God's goodness, kindness, and love toward all mankind. In other words, it is a powerful reminder to the world that God exists and loves mankind.

From another perspective, honoring the Lord's Day is a way to preach the Good News to the world that God is worthy of honor and worship. It is a sign that although everyone is busy the other six days of the week, believers in God and His Son take one day a week to pause and remember the goodness of God, reflecting His action and inaction when He created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

The Catechism continues to instruct us on how to treat the Lord's Day:

2184 Just as God "rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,"121 human life has a rhythm of work and rest. the institution of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.122

2185 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.123 Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. the faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

(121: Gen 2:2, 122: Cf. GS 67 # 3, 123: Cf. CIC, can. 120.)

Although Catholics do not have the strict guidelines of Jewish people, we are still expected to treat Sunday differently, refraining from work or activity that hinders the worship owed to God. It would seem there is latitude given to us as Catholics regarding what work or activities would "hinder" this worship. Personally, I know that after spending some time in thought and prayer, I realized I had been mowing through Sunday as though it was Saturday -- which caused me to question how was I honoring the Sabbath? Was I taking the time to properly honor God on this day? Or was I only giving Him a cursory nod of recognition for one hour during a Sunday Mass before heading off to do what I normally do the rest of the week?

Whatever you do, consider prayerfully what you do. I know for me, I am taking time to unplug from the Internet and spend the day reading and reconnecting with family and friends. I also prepared my home so that on Sunday, my time isn't taken up with laundry, cleaning, and cooking. For me, this ensures that I gain the benefits of fully resting, and yes, it has made a difference. I believe God knew how crazy our lives would become with all the obligations we would have, the responsibilities, and the demands on our time. Giving us one day to rest is a gift to us, helping us not only to recharge our batteries to but to re-invigorate our relationship with Him.

This section in the Catechism is well-worth reading and studying. I know there have been so many times in my life when I have felt fragmented; pulled in so many directions that I didn't know which end was up. And tired? When I push myself to do more and more and more, my natural bodily defenses wear down and lo and behold, I get sick. Or miss important events. Or forget important things. The list could go on.

My intention in writing about the Sabbath was not to claim that Christians were to honor the Sabbath in exactly the same way as Jewish communities (who are, for instance, forbidden to drive on the Sabbath), but to revisit this commandment and ask: what does it mean for me? How can I as a Catholic live out this commandment in a way that fulfills what God has intended?

There are many ways to honor the Sabbath, or the Lord's Day. I think what is important is simply that we take the time to inquire what that may entail.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Falling In Love With The Sabbath

We do not use the Sabbath merely as a "breather" to gather strength for our coming labors. We work during the week for the sake of creating our Sabbath rest.

The difference between the work we do the rest of the week and the rest we do on the Sabbath lies in the object toward which each is directed. With our labor during the week, we seek to change and improve the world. With our rest, we seek to change and improve ourselves and to renew our relationship with God, family, and community and truly feel how much we have to be grateful for. - Senator Joe Lieberman, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath

I am really loving the Sabbath right now.

At the moment, my window is open to the night sounds. The soft chirping of the crickets rise above the occasional sound of a car. My work is done for the day and I've prepared my home for the Sabbath.

I can't quite explain how good it feels to be so intentional about all of this. I know my life will have ups and downs and at times I won't have an entire day to rest because of various reasons. But I know that I will try to protect this day in a way I never have before. Like a newly discovered treasure, I wish to keep it sacred and precious; not wanting to toss it aside. I may dally with meaningless diversions at other times, but the Sabbath has now become the meat of the week, the delicious, flavorful Prime Rib that makes the other days of Ground Chuck bearable.

Since "confessions" has been an ongoing theme, I'll share yet another. I don't spend enough time with God. As much as I love and honor Him, I don't yet spend much time in prayer. It wasn't always like this. I used to be involved in deep Scripture study and prayer when I was involved in the non-denominational churches and even after returning to the Catholic Church, faithfully prayed the Rosary and started to discover various prayers, which I loved. (The Sacred Heart of Jesus is one.)

I'm not sure if there was any one main reason, but over the past year, I became busy with other projects and started to decrease my time in prayer. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you've seen me start several projects and then stop. There have been a few I've continued, but often I have a multitude of ideas but then lose interest after launching them. I've heard this is a weakness for creative folks.

But honoring the Sabbath is starting to turn me around. I have been looking forward to tomorrow all week. It's Wednesday, only three more days and then the Sabbath!

I have tasted the serene fruit of the Sabbath and now want more. I want to connect with my heavenly Father, focus on what is truly important, reconnect with my husband and allow my mind to take a break from all the concerns and worries from the week. I want to give one day to God to thank Him for everything He has done for me. I want to return to work on Mondays without dread or a feeling of weariness. It's quite amazing to me that taking the steps to make sure I don't do physical work on Sunday and setting aside my computer would make such a huge difference in my life, but it has.

I hope to discover more things tomorrow. I know that tonight I was ready to complain to my husband about something work-related and then stopped myself. I thought, "Tomorrow is the Sabbath. Jewish people take a break from even thinking about their jobs. I think I'm going to follow their lead." So I even started my "Sabbath thinking" early and decided to not even mention work and certainly won't tomorrow. In fact, if I think of it at all, it will be in gratitude to God for giving me a good job.

I'll be interested in anyone else's experience with honoring the Sabbath. It's becoming a bit of an obsession now with me and it would be interesting to see if anyone else has experienced a difference in their life such as becoming more peaceful or gaining a spiritual insight they didn't have before.

I'll keep you posted. :-)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Surprising Benefits of Honoring the Sabbath

"Say to the people of Israel, 'You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; every one who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.'" And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God. - Exodus 31:13-18 (RSV)

And Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your hearing this day, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain.

He said: "'I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. "'You shall have no other gods before me.

"'You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

"'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

"'Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your manservant, or your maidservant, or your ox, or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your manservant and your maidservant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out thence with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
- Deuteronomy 5:1-15 (RSV)

I remember as a small girl that Sunday was different from the rest of the week because we 1) attended Mass and 2) my father insisted that this was a "day of rest" and because of that, did not do any physical labor. Saturdays were usually a busy day around our house. My father would often be out in the yard, pruning bushes, tending a garden when we had one, or mowing the lawn. Or perhaps he'd be downstairs at his workbench trying to find a solution to something that wasn't working right. My mother and I would be in the house dusting, cleaning, and organizing when needed. Sundays were a welcome day of general inactivity although I do remember my mother often spending time in the kitchen, cooking the evening meal.

I discovered the book by Senator Joseph Lieberman called The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath. A few of my friends and family were surprised I'd read a book by Senator Lieberman because my politics are quite different than his; however, I have always had the utmost respect for him because he truly is a man of faith. The book validates this by Senator Lieberman's beautiful explanation of the traditions associated with Judaism as it relates to honoring the Shabbat, or as we Gentiles know it, the Sabbath.

Those close to me know that I have "a thing" for Israel and Jewish tradition. In fact, when I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, I attended a Messianic Congregation for awhile, loving their service on Friday night, filled with these same traditions. I loved how a woman with a veil on her head murmured a prayer at the front of the room, two candles lit as she motioned with her hands a welcoming gesture, inviting the Sabbath to visit us once again. I remember the lovely peace and unity I felt as I looked around the room, noticing men with a kippa on their head, reverently bowing as they said their prayers. These were men and women who were raised as Jews and had accepted Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha'Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah) as their Lord and Savior.

When I first attended a Messianic Congregation service, I remember feeling as though I had been walking with one leg and then suddenly, the other leg was attached. I felt balance in this service, for I had realized long ago that Jesus Christ was a Jew who came first for the salvation of the Jewish people, and then for the Gentiles. I have always looked to the Jewish people as my brothers and sisters in the faith, even though some have rejected Jesus Christ as the Messiah. I like that the Catholic Church continues to pray for unity to happen.

The Sabbath, as honored by the Jewish people, is a beautiful time of rest and reflection upon God's goodness. Although I grew up with the knowledge that Sunday was somehow "different," I eventually lapsed into treating it almost no differently than Saturday. As I read Senator Lieberman's book, I became convicted, realizing I was not honoring the Sabbath well and I wanted to change that.

So, I used Saturday to prepare and barely made it to midnight before my activities were done! (This was my fault for dawdling and not getting some things done earlier.) I usually do my laundry on Saturdays but especially made sure it was done. I wrapped up the dishwasher detail, making sure our everything was already cleaned and put away. I used the time to prepare our home as though a guest was visiting us because indeed, the Sabbath is a "guest" that appears only once a week.

I looked at various recipes, finally deciding on a Crock Pot chicken recipe that was simple. I boiled the noodles Saturday night, cut up the vegetables for the salad, and even boiled the water for my French Press and made coffee, pouring the fragrant liquid into an insulated carafe and tightly securing it before I retired for the evening. I was trying to avoid using the stove on Sunday. The only thing I did Sunday morning at 7 AM was put three ingredients into the Crock Pot and turned it to the low setting so it would be ready by dinner.

I also decided to stay off the computer. All day.

In case you didn't read that right, I meant to say ALL DAY. As in no checking email. No playing around with my digital photography or digital scrapbooking program. No surfing. No checking political websites.

I was 99.9% successful.

At one point, I was going to check a blog a friend had suggested. And this is where God exhibited a wonderful moment of chiding toward me. I opened my laptop, did a search for the blog, and found it. Suddenly, my husband appeared to ask me a question and then gently teased me by saying, "I knew you couldn't stay off the computer!" I was annoyed with myself for being weak and quickly shut the laptop's cover, saying, "Well, I was doing pretty good until you showed up!"

Ha. Good thing we both have a sense of humor. :-)

So other than that lapse of discipline, I did indeed stay off the computer for the whole day.

I realized something else: a great amount of my time is spent on the computer. Not only do I use it for communication with friends, family, and colleagues; I also use my computer for creativity and for accomplishing work (both my day job and side business.) What on earth was I to do without it?

After my husband left, I took the laptop off my desk and placed it elsewhere. I took the Bible and Senator Lieberman's book, and unearthed my journal, which I hadn't written in for (gulp..) six years. Yes, I actually used to write in a journal for many years before getting a computer.

So I read and meditated on the portion of Scripture that was included in the Sunday Mass' readings for the day. I had enjoyed Mass and spent a good amount of time catching up with friends at our "coffee and doughnuts" time afterward. I determined that I was not going to stop at a grocery store to pick up items needed for lunch or dinner, having already made the trip on Saturday. Earlier in the morning, I enjoyed a cup of coffee that was still hot from the carafe I had prepared the night before.

So during the day, I spent time reconnecting with my dear husband, taking a nap, and using the rest of the day for Bible study, personal reading, and even delving into a personal development workbook that I've had for years but never completed.

At 5:00, our dinner was ready. I emptied the cold noodles into the Crock Pot to warm them and quickly put together the salad with everything already cut and sliced. My husband and I tucked into our meal and enjoyed watching a movie together.

All in all, it was one of the most relaxing and refreshing Sundays I've had in quite awhile.

Throughout the day, I enjoyed silence. I noticed I was restless at first, but soon calmed down. I drove to Mass without the radio, which I usually do anyway, but this time I was mindful of the silence and used it intentionally for prayer.

By the time Sunday evening came, I felt like I was Jell-O. Soft. Pliant. Relaxed.

And here's the best part. That feeling stayed with me throughout my workday on Monday.

I haven't usually experienced the dreaded "Monday Blues" because my job has been fairly enjoyable. But lately, my boss has been stressed which has filtered to the rest of the company. For about six months, I've started to not look forward to Mondays, mainly because they've started to become full of frantic meetings with methodology upon methodology being hyper-designed. (Can I go to the bathroom? I'm not sure. Is there a methodology for that?...)

So on Monday morning, when a co-worker came into my office to start the day complaining (as she usually does), I actually didn't get irritated. In fact, I listened, said a few encouraging words, and then returned to work.

As she yapped on and on, I felt as though I was inside a warm, protective cocoon. I thought, This is what grace feels like. Thank You, Lord. Really. Thank You.

I truly believe that if I had not spent the previous day in rest, I would not have had that response. In fact, when another co-worker asked how my weekend went, I told him that I celebrated the Sabbath in a very special way and truly rested. I said, "I still feel like I'm in "Sabbath-land!" He smiled politely but I realized he didn't fully understand what I meant. But then again, he is the father of a toddler and just had a new baby. I think "quiet" and solitude are not common guests in his home at the moment.

What about you? How do you spend the Sabbath? Do you feel that you wish you could be more "still" before the Lord on this day? What's holding you back?

All I know is that it did take some extra planning to create the "day of rest" but my goodness, was it ever worth it. I am already looking forward to my next Sabbath Sunday, thinking about what I'll make for dinner and make sure we have fresh fruit available for breakfast and cold cuts for lunch.

Sabbath is indeed God's gift to us. But I didn't expect the graces of honoring Him to extend into the rest of the week. God, You are indeed so good!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Prayer Request (Edited) Good news!

My friend Kimberly has need for prayers for her little girl, Abigail, who recently visited an eye doctor, where some abnormalities were discovered in the nerves. She was referred to a neurologist and will likely have an appointment soon.

My friend is a home-schooling mother who has had many challenges to her own health last year. Little Abigail is nine, and I know that no mother wants to see their child go through anything like this.

Would you join me in prayer for Abigail's healing, and for peace and comfort for the family? I always ask for God's will to be done, but still, we are encouraged to ask our heavenly Father for help in time of need.

Bless you for doing so and I'll keep you posted.


UPDATE: Abigail is going to be alright! From her mother:

After 4 hours with a pediatric ophthamologist we have a diagnosis: Optic Nerve Drusen, astigmatism, farsightedness and intermittent esotropia.

This is wonderful news! It simply means that Abigail has a congenital eye disorder that could possibly cause problems later, but most likely will not. She has difficulty coordinating her eye movements and can't see things well up close. A very small cross to bear, considering the alternatives imagined by her very worried parents...

Thank you for praying! I can't imagine what it was like, wondering if the worst was ahead for this dear little girl. God is so good and merciful!