Reclaim Sunday Rest

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

July 18, 2021 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 6:30-34

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A recurring theme in Mark’s Gospel is that of the growing popularity of Jesus during his public life. Small gatherings turned into large crowds. The task of caring for the many needs of these larger groups must have fell on those who accompanied Jesus as he went from place to place. This was trying work and Jesus noticed that his disciples needed a break. Thus, Mark quotes Jesus in today’s gospel saying that they should “come away and rest awhile.”

I am a student of culture, past and contemporary, which includes noticing how societal patterns develop in daily life, especially those that might be related to religious practice. For instance, the Jewish practices associated with “keeping the Sabbath” or the Christian practice of Sunday worship and rest.

In the early centuries of Christianity, a large segment of Roman society were slaves. In some places as much as a third of the total population. Slaves were expected to work every day of the week. No time off. But Christian leaders sought to change this practice by forbidding servile work (the work of slaves) to be done on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. This was revolutionary.

Both the Jewish practice of Sabbath and the Christian practice of rest on the Lord’s Day were rooted in the creation account in Genesis where on the seventh day, God rested. If God needed a time of rest, so do we. That’s the message and that’s the challenge.

When I was a kid, this was not a difficult thing to do. On Sundays back then stores were closed. Businesses shut down. Even factories adjusted their work schedules. Bus and train schedules were modified.

But all that has changed. Sunday is now a major shopping day. Plus, with so many workplaces tied to computer systems that are operative 24/7, some people can (or are expected to) work almost non-stop.

Now in the middle of summer, it’s a good time to examine our typical week, especially as it relates to our work life. Do we take adequate time to rest? Do we schedule time to take care of ourselves? To enjoy life in new ways? Referring to the example of Jesus, we have a religious obligation to rest from work. That’s a commandment we might enjoy keeping.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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