Monday, January 26, 2015

A Blizzard Lesson: The Sabbath is a Gift that We Should Treasure and Honor

(This was something I wrote and blogged on two years ago, but for those of us in the Northeast United States, this is timely).
I was just looking out the window of the rectory parlor out onto the main street of our city. With the exception of an occasional plow, the street is almost entirely empty. The stores and restaurants are all closed, no cars are parked along the road, and there is a very peaceful quiet over the whole downtown. There's a blizzard and everyone is home.

I'm certain that there is some sense of cabin fever, but I bet most of us are appreciating this momentary break in the flurry (pun intended) of activities that life has become. Stores are closed, people are home making meals, nobody is out driving, and families are together.  This rare occasion used to happen once a week not so long ago.  It was called Sunday.

Sometimes, Sundays were boring. You had to go visit an elderly relative with your family and sit down for dinner.  The only thing on TV was bowling and some community talent show. It was dreadful for a kid.  And it was, I'm sure, a hassle for the adults.  Somebody had to prepare that meal.  Somebody had to put out all of the nice plates and wash them afterwards.  The whole day was wasted doing unproductive things like going to Mass and having a lengthy meal.  And yet, it was a part of life that you appreciate once you get older.  How often I have heard people say after their parents died, "We will never forget the Sunday dinners we would have together."

People are busy. Life is busy. The reason why eventually the stores opened on Sundays and people stopped having Sunday dinners together and started filling up Sundays with all sorts of other activities was because life is too busy to stop everything once a week. Life is too busy to take a whole day to go to church and to spend time with family and friends. I mean setting aside an entire day so that people could spend time with God and spend time with family seemed like such a waste of useful time. 

But, a blizzard provides us a little reminder that the sabbath was a gift to us.  Obeying the sabbath is not oppressive or a waste of time. It is the best of time. It was given to us precisely because life is busy and filled with activity. If we are not careful, we can spend our whole life doing everything but spending time with God and with our family and friends. When we obey the sabbath, we become more human and more liberated. We become freer to say, "no" to the external demands that enslave us. Our kid doesn't have to be on every basketball team. The company will survive if I shut my phone off and have dinner. Going to Mass together makes me truly free because freedom is discovered in loving God.

The snow will soon melt. But, we were not made in order to have a sabbath every thirty years or so. We were made to have a weekly sabbath. Not too long ago, we enshrined the sabbath with laws.  Now, we don't have such laws to help us keep the sabbath.  Now, we have to do it on our own.  When we don't live the freedom of the sabbath, our lives become petty and empty. The sabbath reminds us that what is most important in our life is our relationship with God, with His Church, and with our loved ones. When we keep the sabbath, we protect what is most important in life. The sabbath keeps us from losing ourselves. When we keep the sabbath, the sabbath keeps us.  

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