For the girls, I read The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn Dixie, Danny the Champion of the World, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, These Happy Golden Years, and books about turtles and books about alligators and books about slavery and books about Abraham Lincoln and books about Saints Valentine, Patrick and Francis....but most importantly, this Lent we read so many books about the Passion and Resurrection.
From all the reading I accomplished over 40 days (and good portions of the 40 nights), I learned a lot! I learned that the quality of my parenting is not defined by how well my kids behave, but by how well they are loved. I learned that I have a lot more growing to do as a wife than I thought previously. I learned that trucks are much more highly onomatopoeic than I ever knew. I learned that books set in the South are far more enjoyable when read aloud with an exaggerated Southern accent, and that stories that take place in the UK would be better read aloud with a great British accent (if only I could pull it off). I now know that crocodiles live in many parts of the world but alligators only live in America and China, and that frogs lay their eggs in a blob while toads lay theirs in a chain.
But what struck me most in all my reading was something I have read so many times that I never saw it - something I've heard so many times, I've been deaf to it. I heard it and saw it for the very first time this Lent - repeatedly - as I read so many different accounts of the Passion to my children. Right there, in black and white (frequently with beautiful illustrations) was this shocking tidbit: after Jesus was tortured, condemned, brutalized, crucified and killed, his body was sort of hastily placed in a tomb because they didn't have time to do any of the nice things they usually did for the dead before burying them. They. Didn't. Have. Time. That's what it says. They did not have time. Of course, they were fully intending to come back in a day or two, but at that very moment there simply was not enough time.
These women not only loved Jesus as intensely as you love the person you most fiercely love, but they all, to some extent, believed or were near believing that He was the Messiah, the Son of God, the Christ, God Incarnate. In other words, they not only loved him but reverenced him. But they didn't have time to anoint His mutilated body - the Body that had endured so much and lay lifeless and fully spent. "No time".
These were good, holy women....who gave priority to keeping the Sabbath over anointing the dead body of God. I don't know whether Jesus himself would have endorsed the decision or not - in so many circumstances He emphasized the freedom we have to do good and righteous acts on the Sabbath. My point is not to quibble with these blessed women (who, because of their holy desire to both fully honor the Sabbath and then fully honor the body of the Lord, were granted the most enviable privilege of being the first witnesses of the most glorious event in all history). No, I do not quibble with them at all.
My quarrel is only with myself. Although much of the Mosaic law is no longer binding upon Christians -as evidenced by the loin of pork the Sealy family ate this evening - the Ten Commandments are. Keeping the Sabbath is still one of the express commandments of my God. But, by observing most of us on Sundays, one might wonder if it is the most "disposable" of all the Commandments. Is going to church the whole requirement, or is there anything else involved in keeping the Sabbath holy? Sometimes it's like I'm operating under the assumption that Mass is a "must" - but anything beyond that is just extra-credit. In response to situations far less important than the burial of a beloved and divine Master, I regularly excuse myself for taking liberties with the sacredness of the Sabbath. I'm not talking about the traditional Jewish restrictions on Sabbath-Day activities, all I am talking about is observing a base-line Sabbath rest:
1. extra time spent with the Lord in prayer or spiritual reading,
2. extra time spent with family,
3. no unnecessary work/a day of rest from what constitutes my daily work
Part of my work is unavoidable on Sunday. There would be nothing holy about refusing to change diapers on Sunday. Laundry - that can wait one day. Errands (aka "buying stuff") ought to as well. Unless someone vomits, mopping floors shouldn't be "necessary". So my rule of thumb for Sundays has been to "avoid" laundry, errands and unnecessary housework. But I'll make exceptions as fast as you can say "cloth diaper shortage".
One thing I've taken away from Lent this year is a conviction that the Third Commandment needs to be given a lot more weight in this house. Even Mary, the Mother of Jesus, fully knowing all that she knew about her Son's divine nature, and fully submissive to all His teachings, fully aware of the utter Authority with which he performed works of mercy on the Sabbath, and fully loving all that he was to her as her own child, even still, she let them take His broken body from her arms and lay it in the tomb unprepared so as not to break the Sabbath. I don't understand really at all how or why she did so. But, in imitation of her, and of the other holy women who humbly obeyed God's commandment despite all the beautiful excuses they might have made, I am determined to be far more serious about "keeping holy the Sabbath". I'm not talking about avoiding works of mercy - I'm talking about avoiding work. When Jesus says, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath," he's telling us that taking one day a week to really rest and reorient ourselves to God and our family is a gift to us. It's good for us. I trust him. And I want to live like I do.
from the Catechism......
2185 On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.123 Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.
The charity of truth seeks holy leisure- the necessity of charity accepts just work.124
2186 Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.
2187 Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord's Day. Traditional activities (sport, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees.
2188 In respecting religious liberty and the common good of all, Christians should seek recognition of Sundays and the Church's holy days as legal holidays. They have to give everyone a public example of prayer, respect, and joy and defend their traditions as a precious contribution to the spiritual life of society. If a country's legislation or other reasons require work on Sunday, the day should nevertheless be lived as the day of our deliverance which lets us share in this "festal gathering," this "assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven."125