Sunday is a day for enjoyment
By Father Jim Baron
As Catholics, when we fast, we fast. When we feast, we feast!
The Church’s mission to proclaim the love of God and inviting people to that transforming encounter must recruit everything at our dispose. Evangelizing uses the new and the old so as to more effectively proclaim the beauty of life in Christ. We order everything in relation to the sacramental encounter with our Living Lord. Reclaiming Sunday as the Lord’s Day offers a powerful witness to this. We say “no” to things that interfere with honoring Sunday in order to say “yes” to those things which extend the kingship of Christ into our lives. This is a powerful witness to faith. It also recognizes that the Good News involves things that are actually . . . good! And their legitimate enjoyment is a part of our proclamation of the love of God. Authentic feasting and proper enjoyment of good things is a great way to invite others to experience the love of God who has blessed us with every good thing. Put another way, a wonderful and impactful way to evangelize is to engage legitimate enjoyments on the Lord’s Day and other feast days.
Before we get into ways we can do this, it is helpful to make a distinction between pleasure and enjoyment. We live in a world full of pleasures. While pleasure itself can be a good thing, pleasures themselves are usually immediate, often cheap, and always short-lived. Pleasure has more to do with the sensations that result from a certain stimulation. These are wrapped up with brain chemistry. Pleasure is fairly easy to stimulate and we have no shortage of ways to do just that: substances like drugs and alcohol, video games, apps, and other screen entertainments that trigger dopamine, pornography, the snooze button, sexual stimulation, comfort foods, etc. Seeking pleasure can involve the mis-use of such goods as an escape from emotional pains or personal trials. Instead of confronting these and overcoming or healing them, escapes into pleasures can subvert opportunities for growth. Pleasure is fleeting and, when it become our focus, can rob us of a deeper satisfaction.
Enjoyment is a more integrated and wholistic experience than simple pleasure. It is genuine contentment, a spiritual joy. Enjoyment implies that the good is actually enjoyable, fits within the truth of one’s life, and genuinely helps to refresh the soul. Authentic enjoyment is utilizing the good things of this world in the way in which they were intended to be used. Enjoyments are an important part of life that not only help us in the moment but can foster internal refreshment. What we are enjoying is a gift and we respond with gratitude. Rather than have anxiety or regret, we can rest in the moment, contented. We can enjoy something knowing that it will pass. Rather than needing to make every moment enjoyable (which is when we settle for mere pleasure), we allow the memory of past enjoyments to emerge and assist us until the next time.
The Catholic practices of feasting and celebrating involve authentic enjoyment of God’s gifts. Like rungs of a ladder, these basic goods can help us ascend to higher goods — above all, spiritual communion with the highest good, God himself. Also like the rungs on a ladder, we do not cling to the goods that can otherwise prevent our advance. We do not allow the good things of this world to become attachments. Having enjoyed good things with gratitude and moderation, we gratefully allow them to pass as we continue moving towards the giver of the gifts, not mistaking one for the other.
So, having briefly reflected on the importance of feasting in the Christian life, the legitimacy (necessity?) of enjoyment, we can now consider some common ways to enjoy Sunday as a day reclaimed for the Lord.
It is a very natural progression for the Catholic to go from the altar to the table, from Mass to a meal. Enjoying good food is a very Catholic thing. Cheeses and breads, meats and wines, desserts and chocolates, spices and oils, beers and liqueurs, are all things that Catholic cultures and monasteries have perfected over the centuries. And for good reason: because they are delicious! Jesus’ own first public miracle was at a wedding banquet, turning water into the “best” wine. (John 2:1-11) A substantial part of Jesus’ ministry was done around the dinner table. Very few things match a long delicious Sunday meal surrounded by family, friends, and good music. This may be a skill to learn or re-learn, but true enjoyment requires cultivation. The arts of hospitality are worthy of any Christian home.
Sundays are also a great time to read a novel, play a game, read a real newspaper, go for a walk, look through family photo albums, listen to music, take a nap, make love to your spouse, write poetry, play an instrument, reconnect with family, paint a picture, or visit a friend. There are so many legitimate enjoyments given us by our maker. Turn off the screen and enjoy them! It is a day of rest and recreation, specifically, “re-creation.” Find something that authentically re-creates you as a child of God and make time to enjoy it. Part of reclaiming Sunday as the Lord’s Day is relishing the good things he so generously gives.
Today was made by the Lord. Let us truly be glad and rejoice in it. Long before any other day of the week, Sunday is a day to enjoy the good things of creation and the fruits of our labors. Let’s raise a glass to reclaiming the Lord’s Day!
(Father Jim Baron is Director of Mission and Strategic Planning for the Diocese of Colorado Springs.)
How do you and your family make Sunday the Lord’s Day? Send a brief description (200 words or less) to Eucharisticrevival@diocs.org. We might just publish your ideas! Please refer to the Herald’s Editorial Policy on Page 6 for information on submissions for use in the Herald.