Column: Reclaim you Sabbath – one half-hour at a time

by Fr. Mark Goldasich

I wish I would have done what I said I’d do. I would have saved myself a whole lot of embarrassment. Here’s what happened:

After morning Mass a couple of weeks ago, a young member of my parish came to the sacristy bearing a cheery little pink and green gift bag with the word “enjoy” on it. As it wasn’t my birthday or any other special occasion, I asked Mary, “Is this for me?”

As she handed it over, she clutched the top of the bag and said, “Yes, but don’t open it till you get to work [at The Leaven].”

I agreed, and put the bag aside as I hung up my vestments.

As I was leaving the sacristy, Mary’s dad met me at the door and asked, “Did you open it?” When I told him about my promise to Mary, her mom chimed in, “Oh, don’t wait! Open it now!”

With an apologetic look at Mary, I peeked inside the bag. It contained a book.

Pulling it out, I saw its title: “Exceptions to the Ten Commandments.” With a wicked grin, I said, “Oh, this should be good!”

I opened the book. The first page was blank. So was the second . . . and the third . . . and the fourth. In fact, the entire book consisted of blank pages. Its message was clear. And no, that intended message was not: See how creative you can be and fill in your own “Things I do that are sinful, but aren’t really (in my mind).”

The point of the little book was to remind “readers” that there really are no exceptions to the Ten Commandments, which were given to us as a practical guide on how to love God and our neighbor. There are no exceptions to living out that love. With a sheepish look, I turned to Mary and her parents and said, “I really wish that I’d opened this down at The Leaven as I promised Mary I’d do. That way you wouldn’t have seen how eager I was to discover some exceptions to the Ten Commandments!”

Isn’t that how we frequently live our lives, though? Looking for the loopholes and not simply doing what we know in our hearts is right?

I read, once, that centuries ago rabbis did a ranking of the Ten Commandments in terms of importance. Which one came out on top? It was: Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

Surprised? I was, until I heard their reasoning. The rabbis felt this commandment was the one that kept us “in right relationship to God.” And if you’re close to God — praying and listening to his voice — you’ll see the wisdom of the other commandments and be faithful to living them out.

As another school year kicks off, maybe all of us “students of faith” can take a lesson from those wise rabbis and examine how we spend the Lord’s Day. All too often, it becomes just a time to run errands or do mundane tasks that we don’t have time for during the week. We may even feel that attending Mass is one of those tasks — something to check off on our to-do lists, right alongside cutting the grass or picking up groceries.

For people of faith, Sunday has to be much more than that. It’s designed by the creator to be a time to rest, to refresh ourselves, and to be with those we love (God, included). Sunday puts us in right relationship — not only with God, but with our world as well.

How do your Sundays look? I suspect that a lot of us would not get a passing grade from the Lord on how we keep that day holy.

I hope that you’ll take time to read the articles in this week’s issue on World Youth Day. Our archdiocesan pilgrims discovered in those days in Australia the power of simple Sabbath things: going to church, sharing a meal, visiting, and taking it easy. From those actions, these pilgrims, according to the Australians, were literally filled with the Spirit and overflowed with compassion and enthusiasm.

The great thing about our faith is that we don’t have to travel to a World Youth Day to experience those things. Simply reclaiming our Sabbaths again should do the trick. This Sunday, celebrate the Lord’s Day as it’s intended: Go to Mass, greet and visit with fellow parishioners, enjoy a family meal. Start making the Sabbath holy again, one half-hour at a time. Read a spiritual book, take a nap, walk around the neighborhood and greet people, keep in touch with distant family and friends by phone or letter.

These small things may not seem like much, but they are putting us in that right relationship with our God. Once there, we’ll understand that not only are there no real exceptions to the Ten Commandments, we won’t even be tempted to try and find any.

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