Sabbath Breaking

Tilman Riemenschneider, Last Supper - Detail

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.  And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.  But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5:15-17)

Charity alone is his changeless and eternal rest, his eternal and changeless tranquillity, his eternal and changeless Sabbath [. . .] For his charity is his very will and also his very goodness, and all this is nothing but his being. (St Aelred of Rievaulx, Speculum Caritatis I,19)

It is hard to fathom the enormity of accusing the Eternal Son of breaking the Sabbath. He IS the Sabbath. In Him the Father rests with infinite contentment, and together they breath that eternal sigh of love fulfilled that is the Holy Spirit. All of creation is ordered to entry into that seventh day of the Divine Life. The Son longs to give us a share of His eternal rest, but we have turned against that rest, through our sins we have banished ourselves to a world of toil and trouble. And so He is still at work He comes into the world to create us all over again, to liberate us from the task-masters of Egypt, and bring us into the promised land of the true and eternal Sabbath.

The healing of the cripple in John 5 is a sign of this new creation that God has already begun to make. And for this they accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath! But isn’t the accusation that the Pharisees make one that we make as well? I was thinking of this other day when I was complaining in my heart about some minor bureaucratic frustration; wasn’t I in fact telling Our Lord, ‘stop breaking my Sabbath’? He is at work in our lives; everything that His providence ordains for us is meant to help to create us anew, to destroy the old man and his works and bring the new man to life, so that we may enter ever more into that eternal rest which is the very life of the Triune God.

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