Keeping the Sabbath may not be easy, but it is a necessary foundation for building a life of stewardship
If going to Mass is a fight in your house, congratulations! You are in very good company. Faithful people have been fighting for the Sabbath for the past 3,000 years. The Sabbath lays the groundwork for a life of faith. If we honor it, a life of stewardship will come naturally. If we don’t, stewardship seems weird and dangerous. That is why we fight for its celebration in our family.
God started the fight over the Sabbath a little more than 3,000 years ago. His people were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt. These slaves lived in what the philosopher Josef Pieper would call a state of “total work,” constantly struggling to survive in a culture that valued them only for their usefulness. The pyramids they labored to build symbolized their world: many working for the few and everyone scrambling to be “on top.”
Pharaoh would have seen nothing wrong with this because it was the norm of an essentially materialist world. When Moses appeared before him saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let my people go that they may hold a feast for me in the wilderness,” Pharaoh heard the start of a revolution. (Exodus 5:1)
Why didn’t Pharaoh save himself all the blood and treasure lost in the fight to come by just letting the Israelites go for a day? Because the Sabbath demonstrates that humans are made for God, not work. If he gives in, there will be no going back, so he fights.
God fought for the Sabbath, bringing his people out of Egypt, because this commandment is the foundation for a way of life. Keeping the Sabbath frees our hearts to know God.
Unfortunately, there is a part of us that is reluctant to let God in, like the Israelites who complained after God liberated them from Egypt because they preferred a familiar life of slavery to the uncertainty of freedom in the desert. Sometimes it’s easier to do what’s familiar and keep our focus on status, career, appearance, possessions and entertainment.
A different way
This way of life is like social media and video games, constantly providing the next incentive to motivate us and keep us “in.” It strings us along with constant stimulation but never satisfies. We know in our hearts we can only be free in our hearts if we take the risk and try a different way.
As leaders in our families we, like Moses, have to fight for a way of life that creates space for God. Our largely utilitarian and materialistic popular culture does not model participation in the Sabbath. It takes time and maturity to experience the value of the Sabbath, so we need to provide our children an experience of the Mass so they can understand its benefits. To make this happen takes strategy:
1. Start bringing children to Mass early in their lives so it’s part of the rhythm of life.
2. Let them see you praying at home as part of life, especially grace at meals. It demonstrates prayer is important.
3. Fast from digital distractions on Sunday morning. It’s best if the televisions, computer, tablets and smartphones are kept off before we leave for church on Sunday. It eliminates fights over when it’s time to get ready and whether we should go. In our house, we even took the cords out of these appliances to prevent them from being turned on in the first place. It made a big difference.
4. Avoid the temptation to criticize the music, preaching, etc., at church — that makes it less fun for everyone.
5. Be gentle and patient when kids complain — this is normal.
6. Provide positive reinforcement after Mass. Let the kids have a doughnut, compliment them for their patience, go out and do something fun.
7. Adapt. Each child is unique. What works with one might not work with another.
Making the Sabbath a priority is a revolutionary act. But if we make Mass a part of our lives this revolutionary act will set us free.
Editor’s Note: With this edition Deacon Eric Paige, director of the Archbishop Brunett Retreat Center at the Palisades, joins our roster of local columnists. Northwest Catholic is now written, produced and printed entirely in the Northwest.
Northwest Catholic - May 2015
Deacon Eric Paige is the Archdiocese of Seattle's executive director for evangelization, formation and discipleship. Contact him at email@example.com.
El Diácono Eric Paige es el Director para el Matrimonio, la Vida familiar y Formación en la Arquidiócesis de Seattle. Pueden contactarle en: firstname.lastname@example.org.