Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

Nov. 1, 2000



            As a pastor, I think the most frequently violated of the Ten Commandments is Sabbath rest.

            Certainly, I am just as guilt of this as any of my parishioners. 

            I’m not talking so much about not shopping on Sunday.  I generally don’t do that and I think the people who do shop on Sunday generally do so out of necessity.  They just don’t have time to get to the store on other days.

            What I am more worried about, is the fact that in our 24/7, work oriented society, people don’t do what scriptures tell us we need to do.  They don’t rest.

            Genesis depict even almighty God needing a day of rest after his labor of creation.  So what makes us think that we were so special?  Why don’t we need time for “recreation”, that is “being made anew.

            There is something in us that needs to rest every seven days.  The world over people follow a seven day calendar.  Even in non-Judeo Christian societies.  We have a certain rhythm to life and need to rest one day out of seven.  For Moslems it is Friday.  For Jews and some Christians, like seventh day Adventists, it is Saturday.  For nearly two billion Christians, it is supposed to be Sunday.

            At the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon tried briefly to go against this natural rhythm of Sabbath rest.   Trying to break the power of the Catholic Church in France and elsewhere, he decreed that the French empire would have a 10 day calendar, not seven.   If flopped.  People wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. There is something about resting on the seventh day that is in the natural and divine law.

            But, what Napoleon could not do by decree, we do by custom. Some of us are worse that Napoleon, because we don’t make any time for rest.  Even  Sabbath is busy.  Sunday is just a different “to do” list.

            Some how we leave something out of human life.  We forget about contemplation.  We forget about conversation.  We forget about reading and writing.  We often overlook the spiritual value of a little afternoon snooze.
            The clergy are just as guilty as others.  The Pharisees might have been a little hard hearted when they resisted Jesus curing on the Sabbath, but they had a point about the Sabbath.  There are six days for doing marriage prep and visiting the sick and planning liturgies.   At least one should be set aside for holy rest. 

            Some of our families are so closely scheduled on Sunday they can’t make it to mass, let alone other spiritually renewing things like reading a book, taking a walk, having family dinner, or praying together.

            Worse still are the isolating time waters that drain our energy.  Things like sitting lives in front of the TV, surfing the internet, or playing endless and pointless video games.  After hours of these things, we don’t feel renewed, we feel empty.

            The Sabbath is for the things that we can’t do on the other six days. If you sit at a computer screen at work, we shouldn’t fill up our Sunday doing the same.   Like Tevia says in “Fiddler on the Roof”, real wealth is to “have the time that I lack to sit by the eastern wall and pray.”

            What happens when we ignore the third commandment?

            Poverty.  Spiritual poverty. Instead of the fruits of the Holy spirit, like joy, peace patience and kindness we get boredom, sloth, tension and temptation.  

            Just because grocery stores, the internet, and the stock market run 24 hours a day, doesn’t mean we can.

            If God had to take a pause in creating the universe, who are we to think our lives are too important to rest.