By Deacon John De Gano
The other day as I was leaving the parish I happened to mention in passing to a friend that I was heading home to do some laundry for the upcoming week. “Big plans, right?” I said.
My friend chuckled, and repeated for me what her mom had told her about doing laundry on Sunday, “Better not do it today.”
“Why not?” my friend asked her Mom.
“It will get dirty.”
I told my friend that seemed an odd response to someone washing their clothes. Why would they get dirty? They already were. They were going to get clean…!
My friend said it was something she learned from her mom (my friend’s grandma). Then she told me her mom called the house one Sunday and asked what they were doing. My friend’s husband was outside mending their fence.
“Oh!’ she said, “Better not today… The fence will be crooked.”
Apparently, there was a time when it was believed that God punished those who disobeyed him, like doing work on the Sabbath. A violation, according to the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, of the Commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day.
And perhaps you may have encountered people who see things this way in your own life.
However, I don’t think that God intentionally gets our clothes dirty or makes our fences crooked. That would suggest that our God is either micro-managing our every step and behavior or else God takes great delight in zapping us when we commit a sin.
Does that sound like the God you know? That’s not the God that I have come to know and love.
In Jesus’ time, laws were used to exclude certain people from normal or “proper” Jewish society. People were labeled either clean or unclean. And only the privileged received God’s blessing while the sinner and Anawim lived off of the scraps of the table.
Jesus came along and overturned the rules; ate with sinners and tax collectors, healed the sick, raised the dead, and proclaimed God’s favor to the poor, the meek, and the despised of Jewish society.
“The Sabbath,” he explained, “was made for man; not man for the Sabbath.”
Jesus said it was so people might rest from their weary work lives. Not that they would be enslaved by rest and not be allowed to show compassion to the less fortunate or assist someone in an emergency that just so happened to fall on the Sabbath. It was so they could spend time with God. And with family and friends.
Jesus demonstrated this by enjoying parties. He “broke” the Sabbath rest many times, using the occasions as teaching moments for his disciples, the crowds and the Jewish authorities who sought to lay hands on him and put him to death.
What is important, He says, is that we enjoy life; our family, our friends. And that we recognize that all is gift from God and that we take time to praise God for his many blessings, including the opportunity to sit and rest. Pray and reflect. Receive communion and the other Sacraments of our Church.
And not allow others to take away our joy that we have been found worth of receiving the gift of faith and living our life with humility and love, serving one another as Jesus would do…So that people’s lives are filled with hope and not fear (of crooked fences!)
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.