By Father Jim Baron
Father Jim Baron is Director of Mission and Strategic Planning for the Diocese of Colorado Springs. He is currently in residence at St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish.
“When parents teach children that setting boundaries or saying no is bad, they are teaching them that others can do with them as they wish.”
— Henry Cloud, author of “Boundaries”
Last month, we looked at how reclaiming Sunday for God and his purposes protects our human freedom. Why? Because it sets a limit to the other things that demand our time, our attention, our resources, our loyalty. Things that are not God. Things that do not love us like he does. Keeping Sunday as a day of worship and a day of rest is for our own personal good as well as the good of society. Taken seriously, it will shape our lives. Then the culture of the home. And if enough homes do this, it will shape our culture. Keeping Sunday as the Lord’s Day is setting a boundary to those other preoccupations. And, like any boundary, it’s no one else’s fault if we do not enforce it for ourselves.
In Christian living, we can get confused about boundaries. We know we want to live for others. Jesus makes clear that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Sometimes, especially in family life, we mistakenly think this means never saying no. St. John Paul II said that “man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” Absolutely true. But making a gift of oneself depends on the possession of oneself. You can’t give what you don’t have. Christian living includes living in an orderly way with self-control, leading to a full and integrated maturity. (Such maturity includes making sure our own needs are met, which is our own responsibility. In fact, when our needs are not met, we become resentful and tend to emotionally withdraw from other people–quite the opposite of making a sincere gift of self.)
In order to say yes to love (God, others, ourselves) we must say many no’s along the way. Like in marriage. The spouses must say no to every other man or woman in order to say yes to this specific man, this specific woman. In a similar way, if we are going to say yes to God, that means we will be saying no to so many other things, not just to sin but also to those things that compete with our yes to God.
Keeping Sunday as a day set apart will require a number of no’s: no to competing priorities, no to vegging out on Friday through Saturday instead of Sunday, no to things that require other people to work on Sunday, etc. This is what it means to set a boundary, not just in theory but in practice. Mature people have healthy boundaries. The same goes for relationships. They know what they want to say yes to and that this will imply many no’s.
What I am about to say next is not meant as a dig. The folks who push back most on the idea of keeping Sunday set apart tend to be parents with kids in athletics. Seriously, that is the demographic most likely to say, “yeah, that sounds nice, but it’s impossible. Junior is in a competitive league and needs to keep his starting spot. Susie can’t miss a practice or a game.” Sound familiar? The boundaries between faith, family, and
sports have gotten blurred. Guess which of these get deprioritized? (Hint: it’s not the sports.) The fact is that it doesn’t have to be this way. This may not mean pulling the youth mid-season. However, kids have survived for the greater part of human history without competitive sports leagues. Athletics have a great value. But the truth is that by subordinating religious practices to sports practices, parents are telling their children which is really more important. It is a non-verbal way to say that God doesn’t matter as much as soccer.
This is not just a priest being grumpy and critical, or picking on people who are trying their best. No doubt they are. But we have a real issue with real consequence. And it’s about more than just missing Mass on Sunday. Whether it’s athletics, video games, shopping, streaming videos, chores, etc., distractions have filled up our lives. Our boundaries have been eroded. The family has suffered. God wants to heal the family and therefore society. And it is much simpler than we may be willing to admit. But what is simple is not always easy. Dedicating Sundays to God and family will change you, and your family. And if enough families “opt out” of the rat race, then we can count on seeing a positive change in our society, which is currently frenetic and intrusive.
Saying no to things that prevent us from keeping the Lord’s Day is only one part. As Christians our “no” to something is meant to protect our “yes” to what matters most. Keeping the Lord’s Day holy does not mean just sitting around doing nothing at all. In February, we’ll explore some ideal ways to say yes to the Lord and how we can take advantage of Sunday as a true day of rest. Until then, be bold and give it a try!
(Find more information about the Eucharistic Revival at www.diocs.org/Herald/Eucharistic-Revival)