What Catholics Believe - Chapter Twenty-Seven

The Third Commandment: Love the Lord's Day

Do you remember the days when the stores were all closed on Sundays or your mom didn’t do laundry on Sundays because she would have to go to confession if she did? How we have changed since the late 50’s and early 60’s. Unfortunately, these changes have not been for the better of our spiritual life as Catholic Christians! Now, every store is open and pee wee or junior sports leagues play not only on Sunday but on Sunday morning, once a sacred time set aside for church attendance. We seem to have lost the “love” for the Lord’s day.

The Catechism starts its reflection on the Third Commandment with the Scriptural meaning of the Sabbath. It reminds us in the Book of Exodus: “The Sabbath was the seventh day on which the Lord rested after the work of the previous six days” (Exodus 20:11). Deuteronomy 5:12 adds that the Sabbath is a day of our renewing the covenant with God. The Sabbath is connected to creation and covenant. They recalled, ‘Everything belongs to God!’ The Christian Sunday carries forward Sabbath themes of contemplative rest and worship.

In his Apostolic Letter, Dies Domini (Day of the Lord), Blessed John Paul II tells us why we should go to church on Sunday. He says: “The intimate bond between Sunday and resurrection of the Lord is strongly emphasized by all the churches of East and West. In the tradition of the Eastern churches in particular, every Sunday is the 'anastàsimos hemèra,' the day of resurrection, and this is why it stands at the heart of all worship.”

We seem to have forgotten, or maybe some were never taught the new Catechism, which tells us that Sunday “is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church. On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass. On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are bound... to abstain from those labors and business concerns which impede the worship to be rendered to God, the joy which is proper to the Lord’s Day, or the proper relaxation of mind and body” (CCC 2192-2193).

Unfortunately, what some Catholics don’t realize is that the Sunday Eucharist must be the most important religious exercise for the week. We offer our lives in sacrifice with Jesus to the Father, thereby participating directly in the great mysteries of our faith.

Sundays were also the day for the families to come together and engage in a common meal and activities because weekday schedules often require members of the family to spend time away from each other. Participation in the Eucharist and other religious activities can renew the bonds of love and unity. A proper observance of Sunday can thus be a prophetic stance in our culture, offering a witness this is both wholesome and healing for the great number of people who need to be less frantic and more willing to let go and settle down to what best corresponds to their spiritual nature and yearnings.

Some questions that we may want to ask ourselves. What are our Sundays like? How can it become a balance of worship, reflection and personal spiritual renewal? What pressures make this a challenge for us and what can we do about them? How does Sunday Mass enrich our lives, or does it? If not, why not?

How can families reverse the trend of scheduling athletic events for children on Sunday morning? I was very much impressed when a family took a stance here in The County regarding that issue. The parents did not allow two of their children, who were the top players of their team, to play on Sunday morning. They had asked the coach to leave either Saturday late afternoon free for them to go to Mass or Sunday morning. The coach scheduled a practice on Saturday and a game for Sunday morning.

On a recent Sunday, with all the state basketball tournaments going on, one of the lectors (whose daughter coached the Washburn girls’ basketball team to the state finals) and an altar server drove back late from Bangor because they knew they were assigned to Mass that Sunday. That is being responsible; that is dedication; that is living out their faith and witnessing to us.

Lastly, how does consumerism eat away at the Christian ideals of Sunday? What are ways that family gatherings could again become a regular feature of Sunday life?