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Religious Reflections

Keeping the Sabbath

by Sister Mary Rita Rohde

We are all familiar with the phrase "keeping the Sabbath." I wonder how many of us in the Christian and Jewish traditions actually succeed in keeping the Sabbath.

Whether one's Sabbath is on Saturday or Sunday is not important. In the stories of creation in the Bible even God took a day of rest. What is vital for us to learn and remember is that God also wants us to take a day of rest. Many of us begin the Sabbath by attending church. That is good! However, I don't believe that alone fulfills God's command to "keep the Sabbath." The Sabbath is meant to be a full day of prayer, reflection, rest, relaxation and renewal for our bodies and our spirits.

In our times when stores and businesses reopen on the Sabbath (Saturday and/or Sundays) it is difficult to resist the temptation to shop and conduct other business on the Sabbath. I suggest that a reflection of how one "keeps the Sabbath" could include deciding not to do any business on your Sabbath. Personally, I find this difficult to do because of the consumerism that bombards us in the media, on-line and from continual advertisement for the next new product. At the same time, I believe that God truly wants us to rest, to take a break from all forms of work and from all of the consumerism. So...I'm trying not to do any shopping on Sunday.

When we shop and do other business on Sunday that means that someone else has to work in the stores and businesses. So, how can these workers "keep the Sabbath"? For persons who have to work on Sunday to support themselves and their families, I suggest considering taking another day to be your Sabbath, your day of rest.

For those of us who spend significant time during the week on the computer surfing the web, or sending and receiving email, how about giving that a rest on the Sabbath? Watching a particularly good show on TV might be relaxing for some, but beware of spending hours in front of the TV.

In the end, each of us needs to decide what is renewing, restful and relaxing for one's self. Some suggestions: read a good book, take a nap, visit with friends, play with your children or grandchildren, cook simple meals, take a hike in the mountains, go fishing or just sit by a lake or river, and of course, attend a church service.

Have a happy and restful Sabbath this Fourth of July weekend.

- Sister Mary Rita Rohde is the director of Sunnyside's Nuestra Casa program.

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