February 7, 2017 // Perspective

Keep holy the Lord’s day

How do we observe the Lord’s Day?  Do we keep Sunday holy? In reflecting on these questions, it is good to recall why we observe Sunday as the Day of the Lord to begin with.

Saint John Paul II wrote that “Sunday is a day which is at the very heart of the Christian life” (Dies Domini 7). Do we think of Sunday that way, or as just a day off from work or a day when we have to go to Mass?  Sunday is, as John Paul wrote, “the festival of the new creation” (DD 8). It is the day of Christ’s resurrection. It is a weekly celebration of Easter. Every week, on Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death. We celebrate the dawn of the new creation.

Our whole Christian faith rests on this fundamental event, absolutely unique in human history: the Resurrection of Jesus. It is good for parents to remind their children every Sunday that today we are celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection. We can say with the psalmist every Sunday: “This is the day which the Lord has made: let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).” Sunday is the day of the Risen Lord. That’s why Saint Basil the Great spoke of Sunday as “holy Sunday.”

It is also significant that Pentecost took place on Sunday. Pentecost, the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, promised by Jesus, fell on a Sunday. This was the day of the first proclamation of the Gospel and the first baptisms were celebrated on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, Sunday is the Church’s preferred day for the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism.

So I invite you to ask yourselves: how do you and your family observe Sunday? Do you live it consciously as the day of the Risen Christ and the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? At it is a day not only to remember the past events of Easter and Pentecost, but to celebrate the living presence of the Risen Lord and of the Holy Spirit in our lives today.

A family attends Mass at El Cristo Rey Chapel in Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona Aug. 21. In addition to attending Mass, keeping the Lord’s day holy also means using the day to relax, reach out to others and enrich our families.

Of course, the heart of the observance, the celebration, of Sunday, should be Sunday Mass. We gather to do what Jesus commanded us to do in remembrance of Him. We gather to profess faith in His resurrection. It is important that parents teach their children why we go to Mass on Sunday. It is important to share with them the importance of gathering to listen to the Word of God, to be nourished by the Table of His Word. And then to share with them the vital necessity of being nourished by the greatest gift: His Body broken and given up for us and His Blood poured out for us. This is what gives us the strength we need to live our faith the rest of the week.

At Mass, we unite our lives, our prayers and works, our sufferings and joys, with Jesus. At the end of Mass, we are sent to glorify the Lord by our lives, to announce the Gospel of the Lord in the world. On Sunday, we receive the grace of the Eucharist to help us to live our faith throughout the week, to bear witness to Christ in the community, in our family, and at work. We return to our everyday lives with a renewed commitment to serve God and our neighbor. We are sent forth to evangelize.

Besides Sunday Mass, Saint John Paul II wrote about Sunday as “a day of joy, rest, and solidarity.” It’s good for us to think about this: is Sunday a day of joy, rest and solidarity in my life and in the life of my family?

Why is Sunday supposed to be celebrated as a day of joy? The answer is obvious: it is the day of the Resurrection. On Easter Sunday, the disciples rejoiced to see the risen Lord. Pope Francis wrote a whole apostolic exhortation at the beginning of his pontificate entitled: “The Joy of the Gospel.”  Christian joy should characterize our life every day. Sunday is the day of joy in a very special way, not a day of mere superficial pleasures, but something more enduring and consoling. It is day given to us by God for our human and spiritual growth. We can think about how practically we can make Sunday a day of joy — for example, family activities that foster unity and love within the family, perhaps a walk in the woods, a visit to a lake, or a special meal together.

Connected to Sunday being a day of joy is its being a day of rest. Rest is something sacred, as we know from the book of Genesis and God’s establishment of the Sabbath. Human dignity requires rest and relaxation. It is good to enjoy the beauties of nature – they give rest and peace to the soul. Taking time to relax with family and friends brings depth to our relationships. Sunday shouldn’t be a day of emptiness and boredom, but a day to enjoy one another. It also can be day of spiritual enrichment — e.g. a family rosary together, a pilgrimage to a shrine, attendance at a concert, etc.

Besides being a day of joy and rest, Sunday is a day of solidarity. Where do we find joy? In giving of ourselves in love! It doesn’t violate the precept of rest to do an act of charity or mercy on Sunday. Remember how Jesus was criticized for healing people on the Sabbath. Sunday does not absolve us of the duties of charity. In fact, what a great day to share with the poor, to visit someone in the hospital or nursing home, to visit grandparents or elderly relatives! Sunday is a day of solidarity, a day to reach out to those who are in need.

I invite everyone to reflect on how they spend Sunday. It is not a day of escape — it is to be a day of worship, joy, rest and solidarity. And let us remember in our prayers those who have to work on Sunday in service professions and jobs that require it, such as health care workers, police, emergency responders and firefighters.


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