Tuesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 1:20-2:4a; Mark 7:1-13)
Sometimes on Saturday mornings around large cities small groups of people walk on the sidewalks of streets where walkers usually are alone and at that very few. “What’s going on?” one wonders. Then it is noticed that the men among the walkers wear hats and have beards. The conclusion is quickly reached: these are Orthodox Jews duly observing the Sabbath which for them means no strenuous activity, not even to the extent of driving a car. The custom is taken from today’s reading from Genesis.
Orthodox Jews take seriously the phrase that God made the seventh day holy by blessing it and resting from work. They see it as a time apart signifying their freedom. That is, aware that humans may be enslaved as much by inner impulses as by exterior forces, they demonstrate their mastery over the obsession “to get things done” by desisting from all kinds of work. Furthermore, they recognize the Sabbath as foreshadowing the eternal life which God is preparing for His faithful when no one will have to work anymore.
Christians, of course, have transferred the Sabbath to Sunday, the eighth day signifying their new creation in Jesus’ resurrection. But we retain much of the meaning of the Jewish tradition. We don’t have qualms about driving at least short distances on Sunday, but we too know that the day is best spent in the Lord’s company at church and then in joyful repast with family and friends.