The Lord's Day

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Time is precious.  Most people would agree on that.  But this does not mean the same thing to everyone.  Most people think that they never have enough time to do what they want to do.

So when God asks for some of our time for himself, people react differently.  Some are so happy to give time to God that they are grateful for every opportunity.  Others can't be bothered.  They are shortsighted, for all men eventually run out of time, while God alone possesses a world without end which he wants to share with us.  As we say in the prayer:  Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

The Third Commandment tells us to give one day a week to God.  "Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day."  And it is written: Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God (Ex 20:8-10).

The Sabbath is a holy day, which, like anything holy, is consecrated or dedicated to God, set aside for him.  God himself says that in six days he made the world and on the seventh he rested. 

The Jewish people observe the Sabbath on Saturday, the last day of the week and the day on which God rested.  But Christians observe Sunday instead, the day Jesus Christ, our Savior, rose from the dead.  We give him this day, this entire day, to show that we recognize who he is and to honor and glorify him.  Each Sunday is like Easter; we are celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord and his triumph over death.

Making it a Holy Day

We owe God a double debt as Creator and Redeemer, and we make some repayment - at least a small amount - by making Sunday a really holy day.  First of all, we put aside our work, which has had our attention all week long, and we turn our eyes to God, because although work is very good and necessary, it is nevertheless a concern with what God has made - creation - and not with God who made it. 

For this reason we are commanded not to do any unnecessary work on Sundays and Holy Days.  Our jobs and unnecessary work at home should be set aside.  There are some jobs which make it necessary for some people to work on Sunday, such as doctors and nurses, policemen, bus drivers, farmers, firemen and others who must work because of economic necessity; but most jobs can and should be put aside on Sunday.

The Third Commandment demands of us some form of external worship, not just internal or private worship.  This is because our entire being is subject to God, both body and soul.  We need to demonstrate this external worship publicly as a witness to the whole community that God has first place in our lives.  God desires that our devotion be visible; he wants to be worshipped in broad daylight for all the world to see.  Private devotion cannot take the place of this.  If we omit outward worship together as a community, our faith will weaken and we may fall away from God.

The principal tribute we offer to God on the Lord's Day is participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, because it is the greatest act of worship.  For a Catholic, Sunday without Holy Mass is not a holy day.  To miss Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin - unless, of course, there is a serious reason, such as sickness or lack of transportation or a need to work, that excuses us.

We must always remember that although Mass on Sunday is an obligation we are bound to, it is also a blessed opportunity for us.  Anyone making a sincere effort to live the gospel will go not only to Holy Mass but to Holy Communion as well.  Not to go to Sunday Mass is to cut ourselves off from the sacraments and the grace which flows through them from Jesus to us.  For Jesus says:  "I am the vine, you are the branches.  He who lives in me, and I in him, will produce abundantly, for apart from me you can do nothing"  (Jn 15:5).

Missing Mass on Sunday is a great misfortune.  It is also a great pity to go to Mass regularly but stay away from the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion.  This would be a sign that Sunday Mass is just a duty, that there is no life in our observance, and that we do not understand much about the life of the spirit or taste much of the goodness of the Lord.

There is great disrespect for the Lord's Day in our society, and it is growing all the time.  It has always been understood that certain stores and certain services, such as hospitals and the police, have to be available on Sunday; but now we see people buying all sorts of unnecessary things in department stores that hum with business on this day, as if it were a day like any other.  It is a sign that many people have lost touch with the spiritual side of life.  If they were aware that life is not just something to be lived any old way, but a time to become like Jesus, then we would not have such abuses.

Day of Rest

Besides being a day to attend Mass, Sunday is supposed to be a day of joy and refreshment.  Wholesome fun is a wonderful ingredient of holiness.  We may take time for reading good books, for more personal prayer and private devotions, works of charity, sports, hobbies, and real rest.  Let's use our imagination!  As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, let's do "something beautiful for God!"  Let's really make Sunday a holy day.

 Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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