When I was in college, I always looked forward to the weekends (as pretty much every college student does). Since I only worked during the week at the university library, I was free to do a variety of things that I could not do during the rest of the week. Two things in particular stand out as I think back on those weekends: 1) Since I lived at home with my parents, I would often help my dad with some project around the house or in the yard; 2) On Sundays in the Fall and Winter, there was always a Green Bay Packers game to watch. At that point in my life, unfortunately, I was not practicing my faith regularly, so I am sad to admit that I failed in observing the Third Commandment to keep the Lord’s Day holy.
Now that I am a priest, I obviously practice my faith every day, especially on Sundays. I can be tempted to try to forget those years when I was lax in observing this commandment, but something stands out as I consider those times now at a distance of many years. The word that comes to mind when I look back to my time in college is that the weekend was different. The flow of the days was different, how I spent my time was different, and how I felt was often different. Several years later, having returned to the regular practice of the faith, I tried to be very intentional about making Sunday different from every other day. I was still tempted to let the different of the weekend extend over the two days of Saturday and Sunday, but as I thought and prayed about it, I knew that was not what the Lord was asking from me with this commandment. Although it fell during the weekend, I knew Sunday needed to be different from Saturday, and that different needed to focus much more intentionally on the Lord, not myself.
This is the fundamental outlook that we need to start with when it comes to our observance of this commandment to keep Sunday holy. The Lord’s Day is about Him and we are invited to be particularly intentional about keeping our attention on Him and strengthening our relationship with Him. First and foremost, this means going to Mass. At the Last Supper, He instituted the celebration of the Eucharist, telling His Apostles to do this in memory of Him until He comes again in glory. This is a necessity when it comes to keeping the Lord’s Day holy. But what about the rest of the day? How are you making it different? Perhaps you can make a list of things that need to get done, things like chores, errands, homework, etc. and really focus on getting them accomplished apart from Sunday. There is nothing sacred about grocery shopping on Sunday, so why not pick another day? I personally do my very best to avoid going to any store or restaurant on Sundays, reinforcing my intention to keep Sunday as different as possible. I recently heard a priest share that he does not look at his e-mail after Saturday afternoon until Monday morning to protect his keeping the Lord’s Day holy. That would be hard for me, but perhaps I need to give it a shot! You can also make a list of things that unite you more closely with the Lord that you can choose for Sunday, such as extra time with the Scriptures, watching a religious movie, reading a spiritual book, or praying the Rosary. Since the Lord is a communion of persons, you can work on being more intentional about attending to the relationships with which God has blessed you, such as connecting with family and friends in person or via a phone call. Personally, I find Sunday to be a good day to call my parents.
Let me therefore invite you this week to consider how you can make the Lord’s Day different than every other day of the week, obviously prioritizing going to Mass over everything else. Then, chose the activities that will most promote deepening your relationship with the Lord and those whom you love. And since God rested on the Sabbath, Sunday can be a good day to take a nice nap!