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 What does it mean for a parent to keep the Sabbath Day holy?

Remember 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.” Exodus 20:8-10


Last Sunday, I was up at 6 AM doing laundry and bathing a child who'd had a bed-wetting accident. The day had tons in store. Between all the cooking and day-before-school prep, I had to provide for 5 needy little bodies, all of whom need to be fed and made presentable in time for church. And, before you ask, while my husband is often home to help, sometimes he’s not (the life of an airline pilot’s family).

On Sundays, if I don't manage to finish everything, I'm stressed knowing I must stay up late. In fact, Sundays are the most stressful day of the week for me.

As I was washing a crazy amount dishes last Sunday, I thought: Am I truly ‘keeping holy the Lord’s Day?’

My thoughts went to my Jewish great-grandfather, who would tear toilet paper on Friday and lay the pieces beside the toilet so that no one would have to so much as tear a piece of paper the next day. From the moment he sang the song to welcome Queen Sabbath, no cooking was permitted, no dishes were washed. Either the house was cleaned before sundown on Friday, or not at all. My Zaide would not drive that day: He walked to synagogue. Nothing was allowed in his hands or his pockets because it was considered work to carry anything.

For a woman with so much to do, the idea of a day where I only may pray and rest is highly alluring. But parents and caregivers don't get to take a rest!

It occurred to me that Christ Himself was criticized for not keeping the Sabbath. How did Christ supposedly “break” the Sabbath? By serving, healing and feeding others. (Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; John 9:1-12)

He told those who accused Him: "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27-28) He continued, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” (Matthew 12:12)

Christ is getting at something deeper than the rules of the Old Law; namely, our Sunday service should help us and others to worship God. The Sabbath is not merely a day of rest and worship, but also a day for bringing healing and life. Just as Christ served on the Sabbath, we too are called to serve, our service-work bringing ourselves and others closer to God.

This past Sunday, I sat in the pew alone with my 4 daughters. My older girls were fighting over whose space was whose, my toddler was climbing on the pew, and the baby (who was nursing practically non-stop) let out a shriek every time I tried to separate the fighters and repress toddler gymnastics.

During a sudden, grace-filled moment, I smiled. SMILED. Because God is good. He wanted us all there in Church, just as we were: always trying hard, imperfect, but THERE with Him. Just for a moment, I was permitted to enjoy God's enjoyment of us trying to partake in His Sabbath. I allowed my anxieties to cease. I basked in the presence of God. God was happy with us. I was given the grace to enter the Sabbath rest.

Rebecca O’Loughlin is a Byzantine Catholic mother with 5 children (newborn to tween). She enjoys running her shop (Brushes2Halos), writing, and adventuring with her children--whether on a flight with their airplane pilot dad, or through the pages of Narnia.

Keeping the Lord's Day holy - for busy parents


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