One Minute Meditation
On the Meaning of the Sabbath
Rabbi Jacob Neusner comments: “He, Jesus, and his disciples may do on the Sabbath what they do because they stand in the place of the priests in the temple; the holy place has shifted, now being formed by the circle made up of the master and his disciples.”
At this point we need to pause for a moment in order to see what the Sabbath meant for Israel. This will also help us to understand what is at stake in this dispute. God rested on the seventh day, as the creation account in Genesis tells us. Neusner rightly concludes that “on that day we celebrate creation.” He then adds: “Not working on the Sabbath stands for more than nitpicking ritual. It is a way of imitating God.”
The Sabbath is therefore not just a negative matter of not engaging in outward activities, but a positive matter of “resting,” which must also be expressed in a spatial dimension:· “So to keep the Sabbath, one remains at home. It is not enough merely not to work. One also has to rest. And resting means re-forming one day a week the circle of family and household, everyone at home and in place.”
The Sabbath is not just a matter of personal piety; it is the core of the social order. This day “makes eternal Israel what it is, the people that, like God in creating the world, rest from creation on the Seventh Day.” We could easily stop here to consider how salutary it would also be for our society today if families set aside one day a week to stay together and make their home the dwelling place and the fulfillment of communion in God’s rest.
Pope Benedict XVI