By Amber Kinloch
Do you know how to live Sunday as the Lord’s Day?
For most of us, the Sunday obligation is what springs to mind. Sunday is a day to get up and attend Mass dressed in our Sunday best. But what about after that?
Attending Mass is only one part—albeit the most important one—of keeping Sunday holy. But the commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day doesn’t stop there. Rather, we should strive to sanctify the whole day. Here are four ways we do that.
Rest from Work
“Six days there are for doing work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord” (Exodus 31:15).
God Himself commands us to rest as He Himself “rested” after completing His work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). We imitate our Creator Himself in Whose Image and Likeness we are made. In doing so, we are drawn closer to Him.
Resting from work on Sunday is not easy. Workaholism is rampant in large swathes of our society. People are overbooked with activities and find themselves scrambling to catch up with tasks like grocery shopping, household chores, and office work on Sundays.
Some people, owing to poverty or serving in an essential job like nursing, must work on Sundays. Priests are typically at their busiest on Sundays, celebrating multiple Masses, visiting the sick, baptizing infants, and socializing with their parishioners after Masses or at other parish events. In many cases, though, people have no need to work on Sundays; they labor in order to make more money, out of a compulsive urge to do so, or as a means of avoiding other responsibilities, e.g., to God and/or their family.
But resting on Sundays (or another day of the week if necessary) is not a suggestion; it’s part of obeying the Third Commandment. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, Sunday is “a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money” (CCC 2172).
Does that mean we must abstain from all work on Sundays? No, obviously not. Jesus, defending His disciples who broke the law by picking grain on the Sabbath to eat, said: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:23-29). For our own part, perhaps we have work to do on Sundays in the form of watching a neighbor’s pet, preparing food for our family, or putting out the garbage for collection on Monday. We should make an effort, however, to minimize the work we do.
Resting from our work requires intention and planning. Do you have to run laundry on Sunday, or could you arrange to have it all done by 7PM on Saturday? What about your grocery shopping and other routine household chores?
It’s also good to distinguish between work that is enjoyable vs. wearisome. If you find pleasure in a certain task, doing it very well might form part of your Sunday rest. One priest I know enjoys ironing. Take care, though: Many of us are so used to working every day that we struggle to discern between work we enjoy for its own sake and work we do out of necessity. Determine where your boundaries are and abide by them.
We should be mindful, too, of how our rest impacts others. The CCC 2187 counsels: “Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sport, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities.”
Personally, I err towards the side of staying home and not going out shopping or to restaurants. Not so long ago, the great majority of businesses were closed on Sundays. Now the norm is for them to be open. To not frequent them on Sundays is a form of Christian witness. Likewise, I spend much of my week driving around to different places. Having a day at home is relaxing.
That said, this is a gray area. Occasionally, for instance, I meet a friend at a local coffee shop on Sundays when it might be difficult, otherwise, to meet up. Also, a small, local restaurant might rely on the bustling business of the weekends to survive. In this case, frequenting their establishment might be seen as an act of charity.
Set Aside More Time for Prayer
“Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life” (CCC 2186).
What does this look like? We’re not monks. How can we weave more prayer into our day without it feeling like a burden?
A good first step is to remember what prayer is—union with God. You don’t have to recite a Rosary or crack open your Bible to pray. Prayer is as simple as being with God.
Perhaps, then, what we should focus on is creating a prayerful atmosphere in our homes on Sunday, one marked by peace and joy. How?
Taking a break from technology is always a good first step. What concrete steps can you take to limit your time on your phone, TV, computer, or tablet on Sunday? Can you take a complete break or set time limits? Maybe you check your phone only at certain marked hours on Sunday and keep it on silent mode throughout the day. When you are using technology, maybe you could make sure it’s for some positive specific purpose, e.g., emailing a friend, reading a book, or watching a movie with your family.
When it comes to prayer, I recommend scheduling it into your day. You could start preparing even on Saturday by going to Confession and reading over the Mass readings for Sunday. On Sunday itself, why not arrive early for Mass or linger for a while afterwards to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament? Pray the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet after dinner or just sit in silence. Punctuate the day with periods of prayer. They don’t have to be long or many—the point is to remember that this is the Lord’s Day. Over time, it will sink in and you’ll find yourself celebrating Sunday in a more fervent way.
Perform Works of Mercy
Sunday is a day traditionally devoted to performing good works for those in need, e.g., the sick, the lonely, and the elderly. In this we imitate Our Lord Himself Who frequently healed people on the Sabbath. The man with the withered hand springs to mind, as does the crippled woman and the man born blind (Matthew 12:9-14; Luke 13:10-17; John 9). It is also a day suitable for spending quality time with our family and friends.
For inspiration, we might look to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Giving food to the hungry doesn’t have to mean working in a soup kitchen—it can be preparing a homemade meal for your family. Visiting the sick could mean offering Grandma your presence by calling her or writing a letter. How about instructing the ignorant by sending a friend a link to a good homily posted online?
By performing these works of mercy, we are drawn outside of ourselves and fulfill the Second-Greatest Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-31). We sanctify the day by imitating God in a special way.
Enjoy True Leisure
Last but still essential is the enjoyment of leisure. Leisure is not just the pursuit of pleasure. It is something intentional; it is not a mindless activity like scrolling through the news on your phone.
What your leisure looks like is up to you. Personally, I like going for a long walk before 10:30 AM Mass. In the afternoon and evening, I enjoy reading, writing letters, or spending time with my family.
One caution: Be sure to moderate your leisure. Reading a book is good, but spending the entire day reading while neglecting everything else is bad. Set boundaries.
Sunday is more than just a part of the weekend. It is a day for resting in the Lord. Take some time to reflect on how you can sanctify this day and truly live it for the Lord. It will surely bear great fruit in your life.
For further reading, I recommend Pope St. John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Dies Domini (“Day of the Lord”). It’s a long read, but well worth it. The letter is broken up into chapters with multiple sections so you can digest it in bits and pieces.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.