September 22, 2012 – Taking Back Sunday

Yesterday I spent an hour on the street.  No, I wasn’t thrown out of my house.  I was collecting money for the K of C’s annual drive for the intellectually disabled.  I thank everyone who stopped and threw in their spare change or a dollar or two.  Even in these still challenging economic times, people continue to be very generous.  I also enjoy doing it because it gives me a chance to “people watch”.  I came away yesterday with a couple of observations.  First, if you already got a Tootsie Roll from the grocery store or Wal-Mart, you don’t have to wave it in my face as if you had just won the lottery or something.  I appreciate the fact that you already gave your donation, but if you don’t stop and throw money in my bucket, it’s really no big blow to my ego.  And second, I’ll say up front that I’m all for equal rights for women.  Equal pay for equal work, etc., I’m on board.  However, I guess I didn’t realize that this applied to tattoos.  I saw a healthy percentage of women sporting a tattoo on the arm or neck.  This is not to mention the ones that were not in view.  Just an observation on my part.

This past week in our “Fanning the Flame” discussion group we focused on the 3rd commandment, which of course is “Remember To Keep Holy the Lord’s Day.”  I’m sure that you are familiar with the basic background of this commandment.  After six days of work on creation of the world, God rested on the seventh day.  So those of the Jewish religion observe the Sabbath, the seventh day, as a day to worship God and to rest from their labor.  We as Christians, because of the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and our opportunity for salvation that came from that, observe the Lord’s day on Sunday, the first day of the week.  In fact, sometimes this day is referred to as the “eighth” day because it follows the Sabbath and it is the day in which we anticipate that we will have eternal rest with God.

So what does this day mean to most people, particularly to us Catholics?  Well, for many of us it is a day off of work. It is also a day that we should take time to worship God in a special way by attending Mass, either on Saturday evening or Sunday morning unless there is a serious obstacle preventing us to do so. For us Catholics, the Sunday Eucharist must be most important religious exercise of the week.  It should be the number one priority.  Sadly, many Catholics have let other things take priority over attending Mass.  There are some people who have to work on weekends of course – policemen, firemen, hospital personnel, those who work in restaurants and stores, and many others who have a work schedule that requires their presence on Sunday.  This, however, is not the heart of the problem.  The heart of the problem is that our culture continues to de-value the gift God gave us of the Lord’s day to be a day of rest and worship.  Many people feel that they do not have to be in a church or a communal setting to praise God.  This is an issue that has confronted the church for centuries.  St. John Chrysostom addressed this in the fourth century when he wrote the following:

“You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more; the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, and the prayers of the priests.”  So private prayer, though essential to the spiritual life, can never replace the celebration of the Eucharist.  When we modified our Mass schedule a few years ago from 3 to 2 weekend Masses, a large part of the reasoning was that the liturgy is more inspiring and prayerful when there are more people present in praise of God.

The other part of the loss of the meaning of Sunday is that we are ignoring Sunday as a day of rest given to us by the Lord.  Many times Sunday becomes a day to “catch-up”, to do the chores and run the errands that we didn’t get to the week before.  Sunday has also become another day to schedule activities such as sports practices and games, meetings, etc. that couldn’t get squeezed in during the rest of the week.  This ignores the gift that God gave us to use Sunday as a day to break from the normal routine.  When God rested on the seventh day after six days of work creating our world, He did not rest because he was tired.  He rested so He could take time to celebrate and savor His creation. As human beings we need rest and leisure. We need to spend time with our families. Most of all we need to reflect, to read, and perhaps most of all, we need time in silence in which to meditate upon our relationship with God. These things are essential not only to benefit our families, culture, and society, but they are essential for our souls’ well being. Pope John Paul II said this in one of his apostolic letters:

“Through Sunday rest, daily concerns and tasks can find their proper perspective; the material things about which we worry give way to spiritual values; in a moment of encounter and less pressured exchange, we see the true face of the people which whom we live.  Even the beauties of nature – too often marred by the desire to exploit, which turns against man himself – can be rediscovered and enjoyed to the full.”

So in a culture that seems to continually wrestle the sacred and holy away from us who wish to practice our religion in a meaningful way, perhaps part of the way we can combat this is to take the true meaning of Sunday back. To make our time of worship and leisure as high a priority as a sports practice or a trip to the mall.  Certainly some food for thought.  Have a great week.  Peace.

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