Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

Madeleine Delbrel observes that “silence is the place where the Word of God dwells; if we limit ourselves to repeating this word, then we can speak without ceasing to be silent.” Indeed, if we hear or speak the Word of God, we remain in greater silence than someone who may be physically silent, but whose thoughts re-echo with the inflated pride and judgmental boasting that Paul critiques in our first reading (1 Cor 4:6b-15). It is this sort of “know-it-all” attitude that Jesus encounters when the Pharisees critique him and his disciples for the way in which they were picking and eating grain on the sabbath (Lk 6:1-2).

In the same way that, for Christians, silence is not primarily the absence of sound but the place where God’s Word dwells, so also the sabbath does not exist primarily to constrain human beings from doing work, but rather as a space in which, through their rest, human beings can “let go and let God” re-create them through his own rest. When Jesus affirms that “the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath” (Lk 6:5), he is not merely affirming that he is lord over the laws that govern the sabbath. Rather, the extent of Jesus’ lordship over the sabbath is revealed through his passion, during which Jesus ceases to do any active work on Holy Saturday, instead descending to the lowest place (and thus “harrowing hell”) while awaiting that new dawn when the Father will raise him up.

Jesus’ disciples, too, kept that sabbath, and it is for this reason that it was only when it had passed that Mary Magdalen and the disciples returned to the tomb, which they found to be empty, for all things had been made new. The Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath, for it is through the mystery of this holy sabbath that Man(-kind) is “re-created” in the Son. If God asks us to rest on the seventh day, it is precisely so that we might thus be re-created and rise again in Christ on the eighth day. Our rest—our recreation—has no meaning in itself, but only in that letting-go that recognizes that we cannot re-create ourselves, but must let God re-create us.

September 3rd, 2016