“Now it happened that he went through the grainfields on the Sabbath; and as they went his disciples began to pluck the heads of grain. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why do they do what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’ But he said to them, ‘Have you never read what David did when he was in need and hungry…?’ And he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mk 2:23-27)
The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew “shabath,” meaning “to cease, desist, rest.” In the passage above I learn two things about the Sabbath: 1. In the Spirit of Christ, Who is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mt 12:8), one has a new freedom to interpret and apply the law of the Sabbath; 2. A special time for “ceasing, desisting, resting” is a God-given gift, made for “man(kind),” for all of us.
Setting aside the whole issue of Saturday vs. Sunday as the day of rest (in any event, in the West both Saturdays and Sundays are “days off”), I’m reminded today that I not only need a special time “to cease, desist, rest.” But I always have this time, which the Lord “made for man,” – if only I learn to “find” it and embrace it. …It’s a funny thing, when it comes to God’s gifts, that we ourselves oftentimes refuse them, and then suffer from that privation. Nowadays it is more challenging, on the one hand, to find “off”-time, when the internet and the globalized economy have many of us “on,” or even formally at work, 24/7. But on the other hand, it is also easier to find “rest” in the Spirit of Christ, in the era of the Church, because He has made “rest” available to us at every time, not only on Saturdays: “Come to Me,” He says, “all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give your rest.” (Mt 11: 28) But in His freedom, I need to make a conscious effort, a free choice, to accept this gift of “the Sabbath made for man,” in the responsible ways that I can. Today let me accept this gift with gratitude and hear God’s voice saying to me, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps 45:10)