This Strange Sabbath

posted 3/28/20

The Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi blessing yesterday was very beautiful.  I was particularly struck by the solitary image of him walking up the steps to the podium, and then by the moment in which he led Benediction, blessing the city and the world with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. 

In his prayer, the pope said: “It is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.  It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others.”  This is really at the heart of everything we’re going through right now.  It makes me think of the Sabbath, the day of the week set apart as holy by the Lord in the Ten Commandments.  The Sabbath was given to the people of Israel as a gift, as a limit to the claim that the affairs of the world could have on them.  It was the necessary aid to help them to stay grounded in what is fundamental and necessary.  But it was often not seen that way, especially as the people knew prosperity.  The Hebrew prophets point out over and over again how the people, especially the elite members of the society, came to resent the Sabbath as an interruption in the important business to be done – there were deals to be made, crops to be harvested, buildings to be built, meetings to be had.  They couldn’t wait for the Sabbath to end so they could get back to engaging in the “more important” things of the world. 

It seems that the Holy Father is calling on us to take this time to re-evaluate our lives.  How have we made unnecessary things so necessary to us?  How have we made things that really don’t matter so dear to us? 

I have heard from various people that this has been a time for their families to spend a lot more time together.  They’re eating together, playing games, going for walks, praying together.  People are also checking in with each other more and looking for ways to help each other and expressing concern about each other.  Yes, there is great concern over the threat of illness and what will happen to the economy, and we pray for a rapid end to the epidemic and the recovery of those who are sick.  But are we really anxious to get back to the way we were living before? Do we really want to simply pick up where we left off?  In a way, this might be a strange kind of Sabbath, one in which the Lord is inviting us to shed the idols that seek to consume us and learn again from Him what it means to truly live. 

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