Today is the feast day of St. Scholastica, the twin sister of St. Benedict, both responsible for founding the Benedictine Order in the seventh century. In fact, St. Benedict is called the “Father of Western Monasticism.” They still are fully involved in the ministry of education in America. One of the best known sites is at Collegeville, Minnesota where both St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict’s are very strong in their mission of educating the youth in the area.
Our first reading is the “rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey would say!) as we read of the final two days of creation and the day of rest. The text describes that on the sixth day when men and women were created that it was a very good day! And we acknowledge that we are so dependent on our creator that every moment our God is continually re-creating us. We cannot exist without God’s sustaining us.
The gospel story is from the last chapter of Mark before Jesus goes from the healing and teaching fields of Galilee and goes south and up the mountain to Jerusalem to his death. Before this trip Jesus is confronted yet again by the “law-abiding” Pharisees and scribes, the self-appointed judges of the orthodoxy of Jesus and his companions.
Jesus confronts them with a simple example (and the gospels elsewhere have several more) of their hypocrisy in keeping the law. The gentiles to whom Jesus is talking and ministering with his healing and teaching do not know the shades of meaning in the Mosaic Law and the strong influence of tradition. (This emphasis on “tradition” was stressed by Tevya in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”) Jesus clarifies how the Pharisees have substituted their own rules to replace the Law given to them by God in his encounter with Moses in the desert. He clearly shows how they have erred in changing the commandment of the Lord to “honor one’s father and mother” with a human device (qorban) to avoid helping their parents.
Each of us might reflect on how well we keep this commandment of honoring our parents, especially in their old age when they are needy and vulnerable. It is so easy in our culture for any one of us to say that the government will help or someone else in our family should help them.
One final reflection: about the “seventh day” when our creator rested. The Orthodox Jews and their practice of dedicating the sabbath to the Lord is admirable. But we find it easy to follow the American custom of using the Lord’s Day for all sorts of catch-up work, for diversions from our “day job.” This is usually at the expense of using the time to pray and worship the Lord, to make the day a special day for the family to spend quality time together.
We are coming up to Lent when we talk about “resolutions” to make us better persons. Here is a chance for each family to take charge of how they spend the Lord’s Day. Is it made holy by our efforts to strengthen the family with time together especially in worship or is it made profane by our going off from the family for all sorts of selfish diversions? Each of us needs to reflect on this and pray about it so that we truly can do God’s will in “making holy the sabbath day.”
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