Yesterday (Labor Day), I had the chance to go to daily mass on my day off, and the Gospel struck me in a way that I did not expect. In Monday’s Gospel, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath sending the Pharisees into a state of utter frustration and confusion. And in some ways, their frustration is understandable. How could Jesus be clearly breaking the Jewish Sabbath law of rest, even if it was for a good reason? Did He not make this Law and command strict rest on the Sabbath? As I reflected on my own confusion at Jesus’ actions, I was wondering how the priest would unravel this mystery in his homily. And in his homily, a certain quote from Scripture came to my mind: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28). It dawned on me that the Sabbath was not made so that man could simply rest from his work. It was instituted as a sign for us to remember that our ultimate end is to rest in God - we are made for union with Him in Heaven. Jesus healed the man’s withered hand not to break the Law and allow us to work 24 hours, 7 days a week. He healed the man to remind us that He is the One who ultimately brings about our salvation. He is the One who heals us, comforts us, loves through us, and gives us the strength to serve Him and our neighbor. Not working on the Sabbath, then, is a reminder that God loves us and is constantly conforming our hearts to His own. The Sabbath reminds us that He is ultimately in control.
I find myself pondering on these thoughts after a long, Labor Day weekend where our society gives much of its workers a day of rest from the hard work of the year, and in my time of rest this past weekend, one thing was made clear to me: I do not like to take the rest offered to me by God. As my community members in Fall River like to remind me often, “You need to take care of yourself!” I find it difficult to get a full night’s sleep, to eat well, or to drink plenty of water when life continually demands one thing of me: work. I feel pulled to constantly answer emails, text messages, phone calls, set up meetings, plan events, etc., and at the end of the day, I frequently find that I did not make time to take care of myself as I completed the daily duties. Yet, if the Sabbath is truly a reminder that God desires to heal and love me so that I may enter into His rest, then it is foolish of me to believe that my work is ultimately more important than this rest. Yes, work is good and important since it provides us with the necessities for our earthly lives, but if it always trumps the spiritual relationship that God seeks to cultivate with me, then the work ultimately means nothing. Work is ordered to glorifying and loving God, but if I don’t allow myself to rest in Him, then my work shall only glorify and love my own self. So, I move on from this Labor Day hoping to create space for rest in my life and to place my hope solely in God, the One towards Whom I am walking with every step of my life.
This 7th day of September of the Year of St. Joseph 2021
Feast of St. Cloud