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.
In last month’s issue, I exhorted us to take back Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Two specific ways we do this is to go to Mass and enjoy actual rest. As much as keeping Sunday holy is an act of obedience to the Lord’s commandment, it is also a treat to us. This month, I think it is helpful to focus more on why that is true.
Once upon a time, God’s people were enslaved by Egypt’s pharaoh. The Lord saw this and sent Moses to lead them out of slavery. Moses was instructed (several times) to tell pharaoh to allow the people to go several days’ journey into the desert to offer sacrifice to the Lord and to feast. But pharaoh stubbornly refused, and we know the rest of the story. Pay attention, however, to how the Lord began the process of liberation: by calling his people to come and worship him. Turning towards divine worship means turning away from servile labor. These two things are directly connected.
Pharaoh, like the fallen world, wanted to call the shots. He, like the world today, wanted to get as much profit out of people as possible. No employer loves any employee as much as God. And while servile labor may financially compensate us, it can quickly enslave us with more hours, new responsibilities, and never-ending commitments. The same can be said for our household chores and many other things. If the Hebrews were to go and worship God, that necessarily meant they had to stop working. This was an interruption to the condition of slavery. God still calls us to come and worship him, therefore pressing pause on our other duties. Divine worship remains a central part of how he liberates his people from the various forms of slavery that we might otherwise give ourselves over to.
We must be told to “Keep holy the Sabbath” because we have a tendency, as human beings, to worship things other than God. Think of the Golden Calf incident. Or the Baals. Or money, pleasure, distraction, fame, rewards, etc. None of these things are God and not one of them can ultimately satisfy us. It is true that we become like what we worship. If we worship God, on his terms, then we share more and more in his divine life. If we don’t, we become something else altogether. By making time for the One who offers us eternal life, we set a limit to the things that may otherwise dominate our temporal lives.
In the gospels, Jesus shows us time and again that he is Lord of the Sabbath. Sunday, the Christian holy day, is the day he rose from the dead. It is the day of the new creation. Jesus makes it clear that the Lord who tells us to keep holy the sabbath is the same one who will free us from the slavery to sin and establish the most perfect way to worship God: the paschal memorial in his Body and Blood. Jesus is Lord of the sabbath and wants us to truly enter into his rest (Mt 11:28). He tells us how to do that. We remain in him. How do we remain in him? By having Communion with him. How do we have Communion with him? By keeping his word and by eating his flesh and drinking his blood in the gift of the Eucharist.
For freedom, Christ set us free. Pope Saint John Paul II said, “Don’t be afraid to give your time to Christ!” Sunday is a “stake in the ground” that helps keep us free from the tyranny of this world. Keeping holy the Lord’s Day is an act of rebellion against a fallen world. By living Sunday in a Christian way, we set a limit to the demands of the world, of work, of shopping, of chores, of sports practices. By taking back Sunday for the Lord, we refuse to be enslaved.
Next time I’ll offer some thoughts on specific ways to live the sabbath, with common examples of ways we can say “no” to certain things so that we can say “yes” to better things.
(Find more information about the Eucharistic Revival at diocs.org/Herald/Eucharistic-Revival)
How do you and your family make Sunday the Lord’s Day?
Send a brief description (600 words or less) to Eucharisticrevival@diocs.org. We just might publish your ideas! Please refer to the Herald’s Editorial Policy on Page 6 for information on submissions for use in the Herald.
Here is one family's story.
Dear Fr. Baron,
I recently discovered your article on “Taking Back Sunday” in the Catholic Herald. Thank you for writing about this! My husband and I completely agree with you and would like to further help you promote it. We have often pondered how different our culture would look if Sunday returned to a day of worship and rest. This is how we order our Sundays:
Sunday Mass is an anchor for our week. I didn’t fully realize this until we couldn’t attend Mass during the first few months of Covid. We continued to get dressed in our Sunday best and read the Mass readings and pray the rosary with our kids but there was a deep emptiness not being able to worship in person at Church and receive the Eucharist. Our children know that Sunday is different and important. Their Mass clothes are put out and shoes are found the night before to ease the struggle of getting to church on time. We talk about who we can offer our prayers for on the ride to Mass and discuss the homily on the way home.
After we get home from Mass, it’s leisure time. We chat over coffee while the kids play. We dabble in hobby projects, nap, read, play board games and bake cookies. We cook special meals and enjoy the company of family or friends. We go on walks or take picnics to a park. We try to spend our Sundays as a family making connections and memories, because we know the years we have with our children at home are so, so short.
I’ve found that when I treat Sunday like a “catch-up” day for chores, I never feel refreshed and ready to face Monday morning the way I do when I intentionally avoid work on Sunday. All the other days of the week should be in service to Sunday, not the other way around. This requires planning and diligence other days of the week, but it is so worth it — to just breathe a little more on Sunday. I make an effort to complete the tasks that will irritate or tempt me if they are sitting there unfinished on Sunday. Currently, that is usually just my school planning for the week. During the week, I try to make a dent in the perpetual mountain of laundry produced by a family of seven. We plan our week so that there is no grocery shopping on Sunday (another big chore in house of many eaters.) But on Sundays, I close the laundry door; I stay away from my homeschool work and relax in the fact that supper is already planned.
No Shopping or Restaurants
We have avoided shopping on Sundays in our marriage of over 12 years. “Oh, no! I forgot to buy such-n-such at the store for Sunday supper.” This happens occasionally and we just find something else in the fridge or pantry to cook up. I can only recall a few instances of going to the store on a Sunday for emergency medicine. I don’t believe the claim that businesses will fail if they are not open on Sundays. Yes, some people have to work on Sundays because of the type of work. My husband is often on-call for his job and has even been paged in the middle of Mass when the hospital needs him. But that is completely different than going out to a restaurant or shopping on a Sunday, which causes other people to work unnecessarily. Everyone should have a chance for worship and leisure on Sundays. Our world is so busy. There will always be a to-do list. For our family, Sunday worship is not a check box and Sunday leisure is not a check box. We try our best to make Sundays set apart from the rest of the week and pray that the different rhythm of Sundays will beat in our children’s hearts always.
Laura & Jake Dryer