Grace to you!
Sometimes, if not many times, the Lord Jesus Christ’s messages are hard to take. If you thought he was that nice, wonderful preacher along the streets of Jerusalem, your view isn’t consistent with biblical accounts. Time and time again, Jesus challenged the status quo. Despite the distant past of his words, the daring relevance remains the same. As his words challenged his time, so they do today too. Ever relevant is his message.
Not only did Jesus propose the contrast of many of the dominant political ideologies of the time, he equally upended the rabbinical interpretations of the Law from ritual laws to Sabbath routines.
For instance, Luke 6:1-11 reports a scene of Jesus’ direct opposition to the rabbinic interpretation of the Sabbath. First was the understanding by many of the rabbis that people shouldn’t work on a Sabbath; and that included the apostles not picking some heads of grain for a meal. Second was that the Pharisees watched to see whether Jesus would do miracles on a Sabbath. [Recall that many of the rabbis were Pharisees.] Miracle was considered work. Unbelievable!
For Jesus, the case of a man with a withered hand is a pure situation to set the record straight. Why is the Sabbath? It was a time to demonstrate that the call charity permeates all divine laws.
The Lord’s answers were brilliant: “The Son of man is lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5). “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27). “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6: 9)
The answers were a radical call to correct the erroneous interpretation of the Law and refocus on God’s intent of charity, mercy and true worship.
The Sabbath (literally meaning day of rest) was made so people wouldn’t work 24/7. All work no rest is a recipe for premature death. Actually, it’s an indirect abuse of the human person to whom work should be a complementarity to the human dignity. There is dignity of labor because there is dignity of the human person. All work no rest makes us no better than machines in the factory or the computer hardware. Such a thing is dangerous.
Does this suggest laziness? Not at all. In essence, it makes us be the best at work because rest refuels, refreshes, reenergizes and, therefore, makes a sustainable productivity a likely homerun.
There is dignity of labor and there is dignity of rest. Work hard but also rest. Isn’t it a medical consensus that sleep (at least eight-hour sleep) is an expectation for a healthy life? God our Maker knows that all work no rest is not a promotion of the joy of life. The merciful God wouldn’t want us to work like a machine. The Sabbath was therefore a gesture of love and mercy, Divine love and Divine Mercy.
Second, the Sabbath was a gesture of spiritual equilibrium and worship. The Creator wants us to rest and, more importantly, to rest in God. The Sabbath rest is the Sabbath worship because worship is the rest in and of the Spirit. We call heaven a place of rest because it’s the home where all our desires, the spiritual core, find a niche of eternal repose in God. In heaven, we are enraptured in Divine Love.
On the day of rest, which for Christians is Sunday, we rest in God and rest the body. Both are two aspects of the health of the human person. They promote the dignity of the human person. Rest from work promotes the health of the body. Rest in God promotes a healthy soul. So it goes, a healthy soul in a healthy body.
As we work, may we also find time to rest.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday 23 Sunday Ordinary Time A: Col 1:24-2:3; Lk 6:6-11]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.