This week at daily Mass, we read from Exodus about the Israelites leaving Egypt and coming to Mount Sinai. To show them that they could always trust Him, the Lord fed the wanderers with manna from heaven. He ordered them to gather an adequate portion every day—except on the sixth day, when they gathered double.
Now, why was that? Why double on the sixth day?
Can’t figure it out, because your mind is too distracted by the cares and anxieties of daily life? We’ll come back to it.
As we read at Holy Mass today, Moses led Israel to Mount Sinai. Why? For the view? Reminds me of one summer day when some friends and I climbed Moore’s Knob in Hanging Rock State Park in NC. A large church group of boys, with men chaperoning, climbed when we did. At the summit, some of the boys tossed a few stones off the edge. One of the chaperones bellowed: “We did not climb this mountain to throw rocks!”
The Israelites did not go to Mount Sinai to throw rocks.
Now, many good Christians these days think that the commandment most ignored, most flouted, most desecrated is: the sixth. And certainly the sixth commandment suffers from grave neglect.
But if I can claim to have an over-arching theory guiding my ministry these 14 years and counting, it is this: Our real contemporary crisis has to do with the third commandment.
See? You’re not 100% sure what the third commandment even is.
Now: Yes, a lot of Catholics fail to get themselves to church for Sunday Mass. That’s a big problem. But I don’t think that’s the heart of the matter, the heart of the Twenty-First-Century Third-Commandment Crisis.
The Catechism has an electric sentence in the article on the third commandment:
The sabbath is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.
A day of protest. Better than a march on Washington, in fact. Like the Polish workers shouting, with Bishop Wojtyla, on the plot of land where the Communists refused to build the parish church: ‘We want God!’
The Lord Himself spoke very forcefully to Moses on this subject:
You must tell the Israelites: take care to keep my sabbaths, for that is to be the token between you and me throughout the generations, to show that it is I, the Lord, who make you holy…
Six days there are for doing work, but the seventh is the sabbath of complete rest, sacred to the Lord…
So shall the Israelites observe the sabbath, keeping it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. Between me and the Israelites it is to be an everlasting token: for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, but on the seventh day he rested at his ease. [Exodus 31:13-17]
Yes, modern man has profound, and cruelly destructive, sexual problems, which arise from sixth-commandment breaking. But I think 21st-century man’s far-deeper problem is: The servitude of work and not knowing how to rest at his ease.
More on this tomorrow.