Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?... Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?... So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Matthew 6:25, 27, 31-34
Most of us do not have to worry about when we’re going to eat, whether we’ll have enough food to make it through the week, or whether we can find clean drinking water. But we do have other concerns that keep us worried: our health and the health of our family members, the pressure to pay for our kids’ private schools or colleges, work demands. And then there are the daily stressors – can I make it to the appointment on time after picking up my daughter from soccer and… who is going to cook dinner then? What if my child doesn’t get that job they wanted? Will they be okay? And then we (often us women) struggle with one that Jesus directly mentions in this passage: clothes. We spend an awful lot of money and time worrying about what we’re going to wear to church or to that party or to the dinner downtown. Either we’re thinking about clothes or we’re shopping for clothes. It’s a never-ending cycle.
Instead, Jesus is asking us to shift our focus. Seek first the kingdom of God. Now, I’ve underlined, highlighted, and circled this section in my Bible multiple times but it doesn’t mean I’ve successfully figured out how to stop worrying about worldly things and instead focus everyday on the Kingdom of God. I need practical application… I mean, c’mon God, can you maybe give us a tip on how exactly to stop worrying? I believe He already did: the Sabbath.
"Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God.” (Exodus 20:9-10).
Abraham Joshua Heschel says in his book The Sabbath, ‘Is it possible for a human being to do all his work in six days? Does not our work always remain incomplete? What the verse means to convey is: Rest on the Sabbath as if all your work were done. Another interpretation: Rest even from the thought of labor."
It is surprisingly difficult to keep the Sabbath. You would think it would be enjoyable to plan a day off each week from work, the to-do list, meetings, etc. but for us Type-A personalities, stopping in the middle of that project, seeing the To-Do list and not being able to do anything about it, or having to tell other people ‘no’ because you are holding true to the Sabbath is a sacrifice. But the benefits far outweigh the difficulties.
Holding the Sabbath helps me re-connect with my Creator and calms me down, knowing that even if worse comes to worst, it’s still okay. I am reminded that He will someday wipe away every tear from our eyes. Holding the Sabbath teaches me to re-examine my soul. Holding the Sabbath lets me hear God’s words, “Do not worry. It will be okay.” Holding the Sabbath teaches me to stop, breathe, and see God’s beauty in nature. Holding the Sabbath reminds me that my work is not as important as I make it out to be. The world will continue if I stop. As important as I think everything is in my life, the Sabbath reminds me that it is nothing compared to the Kingdom of God. Basically, holding the Sabbath sets my head on straight after a week of it spinning around like the little girl from the Exorcist (sorry for the imagery J). The Sabbath keeps me from worry and reminds me to seek first the Kingdom of God.
Ash Wednesday is right around the corner and we will all be embarking on a journey to return to God. Consider making a commitment to the Sabbath this Lent. Take the day (any day – it doesn’t need to be Sunday) and consecrate it to God. Turn off your phone. Head out in nature. Bring a notebook and your Bible. Watch the sunset. Breathe. Re-center yourself in the love of God and feel the peace that only He can give. I’ve found that fasting on this day and finishing the day with Mass and receiving the Eucharist has been most fruitful, although the day is unbelievably rewarding either way. I believe that God’s commandments are for OUR good and the Sabbath is no different. He doesn’t want you to live a life of worry, but if you never stop moving, it’s difficult to redirect your focus on the Kingdom of God. Embrace the Sabbath this Lent and find peace.