Monday, October 12, 2009

3rd Commandment

Requested by at least a couple of people, written for our parish bulletin, part of an occasional series. Edited slightly to include a couple of resources I came across after writing it originally.
Living our faith in the real world
The Third Commandment:
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.90

2168 The third commandment of the Decalogue recalls the holiness of the sabbath: “The seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD.”92 ...

2172 God’s action is the model for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”96 The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.97
Catechism of the Catholic Church

Sabbath rest implies that there is an obligation to work on the previous six days (v9). Work is the only justification for rest. The Hebrew word sabat actually means "sabbath" and "rest." But on this day rest acquires a cultic value, for no special sacrifices or rites are prescribed for the sabbath: the whole community, and even animals, render homage to God by ceasing from their labors.
The Navarre Bible, commentary on Exodus 20: 8-11

God rested, not because he was tired. God rested to celebrate, to savor, to delight in, to play, to revel in the creation, to say, "It is good." God rested and declared it holy. In that rest, God is affirming that there is nothing to prove. We are invited to enter that rest. Sabbath is the invitation to rest from the tyranny of pursuit. ...
The Power of Pause by Terry Hershey
This commandment is desperately needed in our modern times, perhaps because it is difficult to think of one that is more commonly ignored.

The key to understanding and observance is to remember that God did not institute the commandments for His own good. He needs nothing. He instituted them out of love for our good.

As human beings we need rest. We need leisure. We need to spend time with our families. Most of all we need to reflect, to read, and perhaps most of all, to cultivate silence in which to meditate upon our relationship with God. These things are essential not only to benefit our families, culture, and society, but they are essential for our souls’ well being.

There is all too much pulling us in a thousand different directions. It takes a determined stand to hold apart even an hour or two to bring things to a halt and rest without worrying about what is next on the “to do” list. Yet the benefits to our souls from this rest are countless. Remember, even God took a day of rest after a busy week of work. He didn’t need it. He knew that we do. Once again, He has gone first and we have only to be determined to follow in His footsteps. Make a serious effort to keep the Sabbath holy, even if only for an hour or two at first. It will make a difference.

Perhaps most interesting is the reminder from The Navarre commentary quoted above that God doesn't prescribe how we take rest, simply that we do so. It is the rest itself which is holy. That is a freeing concept that invites us to self evaluation and prayer to determine just what it is that we need to let go from the week so that we may have renewed vigor when we take it up again the next day. This can be surprisingly difficult to do, as practitioners of keeping the Sabbath will testify. It is at the moment when we are struggling not to turn on the computer or clean out that drawer or write up that report that we discover just how addictive work is to our society and in our own lives.

As we have noted before, it can be helpful to examine our consciences in light of a this consideration. The examination below is offered in that spirit.

Examination of Conscience*: 3rd Commandment
  • Do I set time aside each day for personal prayer to God?
  • Have I missed Mass on Sunday or Holy Days (through own fault without sufficient reason)?
  • Have I committed a sacrilege against the Blessed Sacrament?
  • Have I received a sacrament while in the state of mortal sin?
  • Do I habitually come late to and/or leave early from Mass without a good reason?
  • Do I shop, labor, or do business unnecessarily on Sunday or other Holy Days of Obligation?
  • Do I not attend to taking my children to Mass?
  • Do I knowingly eat meat on a forbidden day (or not fasting on a fast day)?
  • Do I eat or drink within one hour of receiving Communion (other than medical need)?
90 Ex 20:8-10; cf. Deut 5:12-15.
92 Ex 31:15.

93 Ex 20:11.
94 Deut 5:15.

95 Cf. Ex 31:16.
96 Ex 31:17; cf. 23:12.

* An examination of conscience is not intended to be a checklist used only in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation. The purpose is to help souls know what actions or attitudes are sinful and realize the gravity of committing them. This may help in avoidance or in turning away from sin and towards God and joy.

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