Give It a Rest!
EDITOR'S NOTE: On Jan. 1 we began a 10-week countdown to the beginning of Lent. Ten weeks? Ten Commandments? Yes. In preparation for Lent, together let's make an examination of conscience by means of this weekly series of reflections on each of the Ten Commandments. In this third entry, we reflect on why we must remember and keep holy the Sabbath Day.
By Chris Sparks (Jan 15, 2014)
Remember the Sabbath Day — keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. — Ex 20:8-11
Sometimes, people look at Christianity and say, "There're an awful lot of rules in that religion! Do this; don't do that; here a mortal sin; there a venial sin — it's too much!"
Funny thing, though — the rule we most often break is also the easiest to keep.
Rest on Sunday. Give it over to God.
That's it! That's all you've got to do. And yet, for some reason, modern day folk so often just can't do it.
Oh, we're great at resting when we should be working. I know of what I speak — I'm quite good at procrastination myself. We're willing to throw everything to one side and veg out on the couch with the TV on after a long, hard day; we're willing to stay inside when it's cold or too hot, when we're exhausted or when we're avoiding something. We're great at resting, right? But keeping Sunday — all of a sudden, there're sports for the kids, or urgent shopping, or people coming over, or a million and one reasons not to rest, not to go to Mass, not to pray, not to do the little things for God that all go into making Sunday a holy day, a day of rest.
Why should we keep Sunday holy? Blessed Pope John Paul II explained in his Apostolic Letter Dies Domini, "'The Lord's Day' is 'the lord of days.' Those who have received the grace of faith in the Risen Lord cannot fail to grasp the significance of this day of the week with the same deep emotion which led Saint Jerome to say: 'Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, it is the day of Christians, it is our day.' For Christians, Sunday is 'the fundamental feastday,' established not only to mark the succession of time but to reveal time's deeper meaning."
Sunday reveals the meaning of time, all time — the incarnation of the eternal divine Son, the love of God come into history. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." (Jn 3:16-17)
One day a week, folks, in which we celebrate what God has done for us. How? The worship of the Mass, which at its core is all about receiving Jesus, the Word of God, in Word and Sacrament, being transformed by the Holy Spirit, offering a worthy sacrifice to the Father, and celebrating Eucharist — Thanksgiving.
Oh — and resting.
But why does God make rest part of our worship? Because we need it. We are creatures, and He is our Creator. We need Him. He doesn't need us. We need rest. He doesn't — but like any good Father, He led His children by example at the dawn of creation, ceased His labors, and created a great cosmic nap. And so He commands us to set down our tools for one day each week and watch the world go by, because it doesn't need us. The world will roll along without us, for God is loving us all into existence every day, always (see Jn 5:16-18).
So our rest helps keep Sunday holy because we take up our proper place in the cosmos: that of adopted children of God, not penniless pretenders to divinity. We are reminded that we are creatures, and God alone is the Creator and Sustainer of all things. We are nothing without Him, but with Him, we share in the divine nature (see 2 Pet 1:4), for when we eat His flesh and drink His blood, we receive His life (see Jn 6:51, 54-58).
So listen to the words of Jesus, and keep the Sabbath holy! "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11:28)
For more on the Church's teaching on Sunday (including why we celebrate Sunday rather than Saturday, as do the Jews), see Dies Domini and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, articles 2168-2195.
1. I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides Me.
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain.
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
5. You shall not kill.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not bear false witness.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.