Rest on “the Lord’s Day” has always been important for God’s people. It was first enjoined on the Israelites in the Third Commandment: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy . . . in it you shall not do any work” (Exodus 20:8, 10). Christians celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s Day, because Christ’s Resurrection took place on Sunday. I grew up in a devoutly Christian family that held Sunday, including the importance of rest, in great honor. On the other hand, our world today no longer understands the value of a day of rest, and I once didn’t either.
When I was growing up in rural Kentucky, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. On Sundays, the pace of an already slow world nearly came to an absolute stop: we went to church, ate lunch, and then took naps. That was my Sunday schedule for the better part of the first eighteen years of my life.
What irked me, though, was a precept my parents held for Sundays: no shopping, no going out to eat, no spending money. This wasn’t a hard and fast rule, but 90% of the time, it held up (unless our proverbial ox was in a proverbial ditch). And I HATED it. When everyone else was going out on Sunday afternoons, having lots of fun that I wasn’t having, I was stuck at home, looking at four walls. On the rare occasion that we did have to make a Walmart run or go out to a restaurant, I felt like I was finally liberated into proper society.
Growing in Wisdom
Now that I’m much older, I understand why my parents were so serious about Sunday rest. The seventh day (Sunday for us) was set aside by God as a day of rest from the very beginning. After laboring over creation for six days, God rested on the seventh day, making it holy (Genesis 2:2). (This, by the way, is why Christ’s Resurrection made Sunday the new Lord’s Day: because His rising marked the beginning of the new creation.)
Even God, Creator of all that we can fathom, took the time to rest. Yet my younger self saw no need for rest when there was a perfectly open day to fill with activities. I failed to see that if God rested, and even commanded it to the Israelites, I certainly was not exempt.
To paraphrase St. Paul: When I was a child, I thought and acted like a child. Literally.
As an adult, I too often see the empty parts of my schedule quickly filled to capacity. As they say, nature abhors a vacuum. If I’m totally open during one evening of the week, you can bet that by the time that day rolls around, I have some type of commitment in my schedule.
Sundays, too often, aren’t much different.
Near the end of Mass each Sunday, I’m often thinking about my grocery run to Walmart. Not only the groceries but, How can I get a good parking space close to the door? Did I remember my coupons? Should I get my hair trimmed? Should I grab a bite to eat before heading back home? All of this is going through my mind before the announcements have ended.
I’m sure you’ve been in a similar situation, your mind thinking of everything but the miracle of the Mass. You’re definitely not alone.
No Rest in Our Culture
In the midst of our rushed society, it seems so difficult to turn off. We’ve gone from laws in place banning any business on Sunday to Sunday as just another day of the week. I remember, before my brother was born, my mom used to work part-time at a Walmart in the next county over. On Sundays, the store would open at 1:00 PM. Yet, as time went on, the time became earlier and earlier. If it wasn’t 1:00 PM, it was noon. Noon soon faded to 10:30, and 10:30 faded into 24/7/365. This was in 1995.
Perhaps one of my favorite stories from my mom’s Walmart days is one I’ll call “You’re Going to Hell.” On a rare occasion, my mom would have to work at the store on Sunday afternoons for a few hours. This day, a young boy approached my mom and informed her that “my daddy is a preacher.” Well enough.
What happened next, though, has gone down into clapback history.
The little boy proceeded to tell my mom, “My daddy says you’re going to hell because you’re working on Sunday.”
My mother, not one to be schooled by a child, immediately responded with, “Well, if your mom and dad weren’t out shopping today, I wouldn’t have to work.”
The Sunday Revolution: A Brief How-To Guide
My mom’s story contains a truth nugget: If we keep Sunday holy, we allow other people to keep it holy as well. In the words of St. Mother Teresa, we must “live simply so others may simply live.” Even more, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds the faithful to avoid any unnecessary work on Sundays, especially if it hinders the worship of Our Lord (CCC 2184-2186).
Often, as I stand in the checkout line at the supermarket, I wonder how many people were unable to attend worship services due to my choice to shop for groceries on Sunday. Sure, I’m only one person. But, one person plus one person over time can add up to a society that disregards the holiness of Sundays. And as I write this, I am speaking to myself as much as to you, my attentive reader.
I am not asking you to immediately forego your weekly family lunch at Cracker Barrel, nor am I seeking to induce guilt because you have to run into the local Save-a-Lot for a gallon of milk. Rather, I am asking all of us to change the way we think about Sundays.
- Shop for groceries on Saturday or another weekday.
- Host a meal at your home, as opposed to a restaurant.
- Block out a segment of time on Sunday afternoons solely for rest: don’t engage in any weekday-related work. Just rest.
Further practical suggestions for Sundays appear in the Catechism, sketching a picture of what a day “holy to the Lord” might look like: “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” (CCC 2186). Deeds of charity, time with family, meditation and prayer in quiet: all these can sanctify Sunday, refresh our souls and others around us, and draw us nearer to God.
I firmly believe that once we change our thoughts about Sundays, ultimately, our behaviors will change. I challenge you, next Sunday, to engage the quiet holiness of the day. Make one tiny change this week, and then next week, make another tiny change. You and I may be surprised at the differences we can make in not only our lives, but the lives of others.
May God bless you as you engage in the Sunday revolution.