By FATHER THEODORE BOOK, Commentary | Published March 15, 2007
In America, we like to complain about how busy we are. We trade stories about our respective obligations, about how little free time we have, about the demands of our schedule.
Sometimes, though, the complaints may bear an undertone of pride: See how important I am, how much I am in demand, how full and complete my life is! We are comfortable exchanging anecdotes about the scarcity of blank lines in our date books; we would feel uneasy if we had to reveal that we had nothing to do, no place to be, that our calendar and our time were open.
Yet in many ways, God asks for exactly that, for time that is not ruled by the agenda and the clock, for time that is open to His providence, for silence where His voice may be heard.
“Remember,” He writes, “the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God, in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter . . . for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.”
The sabbath, which becomes our Sunday, is not given simply as a day of worship, as simply an obligation to make a weekly appearance at church, but as a day of rest, a day free from appointments and meetings, free from shopping and chores, and perhaps even as a day free from soccer meets and rented movies: truly a day of rest, a day open for God and for family.
Could we bear so much time unbroken by schedules and appointments? Could we be comfortable spending so much time with our families? Would we be at ease spending so much time with ourselves?
Often, I think, the answer is “no.” We rush from place to place because we are afraid of what we might discover if we were to stop. And yet, there is something beautiful hidden under our drifts of canary yellow to-do notes, something beautiful that we might discover if Sunday did not have a page in our day timers.
How wonderful might it be to really get to know the members of our own families, to spend time with them, not doing any project or rushing to any event or watching any show, but simply being together? How wonderful might it be to encounter ourselves, and find that we have a value and a purpose that does not derive from any accomplishment or proceed from any status we might achieve by our labors.
But most of all, how wonderful would it be to encounter God on His own terms, not as an item to be checked off the to-do list, but as a loving Father, a redeeming Son, and a life-giving Spirit who desires to meet us and to be with us. Perhaps it is a bit scary to contemplate such an encounter, even to imagine taking the family to church with the leisure to be with God, not rushing in at the last second, and then out at the final blessing under the pressure of a schedule that (thankfully?) leaves no available moment to consider and to meet the one who created Sunday and hallowed it by His resurrection.
Yet God is the one who created Sunday, even as He created us, and He longs to be with us, to meet us in the silence of the sabbath. One day we will appear before Him at the gate of an eternal sabbath where He desires to spend all time with us uninterrupted by appointments, schedules, and plans; with simply the stillness and the beauty of contemplating His face in the company of all the saints. When that day comes, let us pray that our response is not: “Sorry, Lord, I am too busy, and too important, to spend time with you.”
Father Theodore Book is director of the archdiocesan Office of Divine Worship and chaplain at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Home for cancer patients in Atlanta.