In my bulletin article for the weekend of June 12th & 13th, I discussed the topic of Christians celebrating the Sabbath on Sundays instead of Saturdays. That article was prompted by a recent encounter I had with a college student. After seeing the Bible verse where the Sabbath is celebrated on Saturdays, the student stopped being active in her Catholic faith. Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sundays. She disagreed with this as she perceived it to be inconsistent with the scriptures. But after our interaction and in-depth discussion on the topic, she seemed to understand the reason for our Catholic Christian practice of celebrating the Sabbath on Sundays instead of on Saturdays.
It was the first apostles of Jesus Christ, who started celebrating the holy day of the Sabbath on Sundays. This practice came to be after Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday morning. The resurrection of Christ characterizes the very reason of our Christian faith. It is central to our Christian teachings and worship. So, it became critical for the apostles to celebrate the sacred day of the Sabbath on Sundays – the day on which Christ signed our salvation by conquering death and overcoming the power of evil.
Since the Sabbath day (Sunday) is so important in our Christian faith, the Church teaches that it is a moral obligation for every Christian to keep this day holy. To keep the sabbath day holy is the third of the ten commandments that God gave us through Moses in Exodus 20:1-17; 31:15. There are two reasons in the Old Testament for keeping the Sabbath day holy. First, this commandment commemorates the last day of creation on which God rested (Exodus 20:11). Second, it is a memorial of the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage in Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:15). The New Testament basis for keeping the sabbath day holy is primarily the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8).
The holiness of the Sabbath day (Sunday for Christians) is, to a large extent, a biblical fact for many Christians. However, what should be done and what should be avoided to keep this day holy is still unclear to many of us. But the bible is clear on this. In Exodus 20:10, God declares that we should not do any work on a sabbath day; neither shall we make the people under us or the people who work for us do any work. What still seems unclear here is what qualifies as work and what does not.
What qualifies as work and what does not is more difficult to answer because we live in a capitalist society where the worship of money has become the order of the day. However, as Christians, we should always do well to stay away, on Sundays, from some of those activities that characterize our everyday lives for the rest of the week. Ideally, these include going to work and engaging in any other activities that do not involve physical and mental rest and spiritual refreshment.