The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 3, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

So what is your Sabbath like?

The Sabbath, time for rest and worship, must be protected and promoted

March 5, Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time

By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for Reflection:

1) Are you happy with the way you keep the Sabbath?

2) How do you "sharper your saw?"

3) How much time do you return to the Lord - every day? every week?

In the 1970s, many people participated in "intensive journal workshops." Developed by Ira Progoff, these experiences provided a methodology by which inner thoughts, intuitions and dreams were taken seriously and were given expression through language. Fidelity to a daily journal fostered considerable inner growth.

In the 1990s, another methodology was introduced by Stephen Covey whose popular book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, provided a framework that brought intentionality and order to one's life. The seventh habit, "sharpen the saw," is an exhortation to maintain balance in life. It's a principle that helps implement the "Sabbath" theme of today's readings.

Our culture in the United States is active and pragmatic. It would be unlikely for foreigners to suggest that "idleness" is our national sin. Rather, "activism" - keeping busy for busyness' sake - might be a major national vice that is diminishing our humanity.

Jesus budgeted time to foster his relationship with his Father. Jesus made it absolutely clear that the Sabbath, that space and time for rest, that space and time for worship, must be protected and promoted. One can sense the Lord's impatience when legalistic minded people distort the purpose of the Sabbath. Whatever dehumanizes ultimately is opposed to God's loving design.

Historically, many people (as well as animals) who lived in oppression simply were denied habitual periods of rest. The book of Deuteronomy cannot be clearer: "Six days you may labor and do your work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God." Just a few weeks ago a major corporation in our country announced that they will make available to all their employees a complete computer system. Now it will be possible to "work" seven days a week, even in the sanctuary of the home.

How do we spend our Sabbath time? What is permitted, in God's eyes, on the Sabbath?

The disciples (and Jesus) were walking through stranding grain. More, the disciples began pulling off heads of grain and eating them. (I will not deal with the question of how did the farmer feel about those trespassers nor the question of the ethics of eating someone else's grain). The Gospel simply makes a point that the protesting Pharisees were blind to an obvious truth: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."

So what is your Sabbath like? Do you budget time to be with the Lord, to renew your spirit, to put aside our hurried pace of life and enter into silence and contemplation (that loving attention to God's redeeming love)? Is the TV and radio and stereo shut down?

At Confirmation recently I challenged the candidates for that sacrament (and, of course, their sponsors and parents) to return one (1) of the 168 hours per week to the Lord by attending Sunday Mass. I offer a second challenge: to give back to the Lord two (2) of the daily 144 ten minutes slots by reading the Bible or praying. These were Sabbath suggestions.

Once the saw gets dull we may not be able to cut sufficient firewood to make it through the winter. Keeping the Sabbath may well be a matter of life or death.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)

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