God Worked And Rested On The Seventh Day
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our third week of our series called Needy the first reading reminds us of our need to work and to rest (Exodus 20: 1-17). As we have been saying, Lent is a time to look for God, to see his actions in my daily life, and it is easy to avoid this need for God. We can fill that need with many other things or people or busyness. But the need still remains, and God does not get tired of reaching out to us, again, and again.
So this week we will speak about two needs that go together and have a certain rhythm. We hear the Ten Commandments this weekend that Moses received from God after the forty years in the desert. First of all it is important to see that the Commandments are not a condition for a relationship with God. He is not saying before we can speak you have to live these ten commands. God has shown enormous power to the Israelites by rescuing them from the slavery of Egypt and how he blessed them in every way. Many years later he gives them the commandments. God is not only powerful, but he is also very good.
We are going to focus on only one of them, which is the third commandment: Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day. Six days will you labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. No work is done on that day. The Bible goes on to say that God made the heavens and the earth and the sea…; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
God works for six days making heaven and earth and everything in it. After creation, God rests. Why? Is he worn out or tired? God rests to set the pace or pattern for how he wants us to live. Let’s take a look at this. At some point there was no creation and God decided to work and create not because he was bored or had nothing to do but out of love. Since we are made in the image and likeness of God we are called also to work.
The commandment says: Six days you may labor and do all your work. It assumes an inclination to work as if it was something natural; it is not a curse or a result of sin or a punishment. Work is part of the plan carved into our souls because we are made in the image and likeness of God. We not only need the produce of work or the profit of work but also the process of working. One of the great tragedies of our time is that people are not provided with meaningful work. In Europe the unemployment rate among young people is 40% in some countries.
We can look at work as a job: something I have to do to survive and pay the bills, but it is not very satisfying. Another way to look at work is as a career. This is my way to make a name for myself, to move up the ladder, to amass a nice nest egg, to build myself up, but it does not satisfy my soul, it is not a service.
One more way to look at work is when people see it as a calling, a vocation. There is value in their work beyond themselves. The type of work doesn’t really make it better; it’s the attitude of service or love that is put into it. There is a higher purpose to what we do and God is the one who gives that.
And that the calling to work is matched with rest. To be able to enjoy the blessings that God gives. Everything he made is good. Rest is not just recreation or running around with kid’s sports or just entertainment and distractions. Some people can’t wait to go to the office so they can rest from the busy schedule of the weekend. But that is not the type of rest we are speaking of.
To really rest you need to rest in God. The Lord is my shepherd and he brings me to green pastures. We cannot find rest on our own. He needs to lead us there. This begins with the weekend worship and coming to Mass. When you make it a priority, you are putting your trust in God that he will lead you to a place of rest. Our priority is to put together this experience that serves this purpose. Ideally, you can leave here and be encouraged and inspired you to go back out to your life of work, after a day or rest.
Some possibilities when you hear this message are:
Maybe your work now is just a job and it does not nourish you. Maybe you don’t need to change it but you need to look at it in a different light, and to see the service that you can do or the higher meaning of it.
Maybe God is calling you to do something else, and is leading you in another direction, perhaps to work for a non-profit or to pursue a vocation to the religious life or the priesthood. Maybe he is calling you to help out more here.
For some this is not an issue at all. And if you love your work and see it as God given then take some time to thank God for it this week.
Maybe you’re a student or retired and you are not sure how this applies to you. Studies or being a stay-at-home mom or to be retired is a work and God calls you to this and how you approach it is very important. All of us ought to have some type of work or service to do for others.
I sense that for most of us this message helped you to realize you need more rest and that you don’t have a Sabbath where you get to rest in the Lord. You are tired down to your soul and hopefully you see that the pace of life is just not sustainable. So ask the Lord to help you find a place of rest.
Knowing your needs and meeting them in a healthy way is not selfish, but is part of human nature, the way God made us. And so, I pray, that we are starting to see that our greatest need is for God.