Question

What does “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” imply?

Answer

Most importantly, remember that God ordained the Sabbath as a day of rest and spiritual worship (Exod. 20:8-11).

Moreover, the Pharisees had made observing the Sabbath in relation to their own stringent standards a test of Jewish faithfulness. Jesus makes clear that God made the Sabbath to assist people, to benefit them, not serve as an obstacle. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) gives further insight: God’s action is the praiseworthy instance for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, particularly the poor, “be refreshed.” The Sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money (CCC 2172, footnotes omitted). The Gospel reports many incidents when Jesus was accused of violating the Sabbath law. But Jesus never fails to respect the holiness of this day. He gives this law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” With compassion, Christ declares the Sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing. The Sabbath is the day of the Lord of mercies and a day to honor God. “The Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (CCC 2173).

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