How ought we to keep The Lord’s day holy?
Pope Francis just gave a sermon a few days ago that I really think should have been stated and given a long time ago and which should be given a lot more often. This sermon is specifically about not being slaves to your work “workaholicism” and this naturally involves a discussion on the necessity of keeping the Lord’s Day holy. Because of the length of the Pope’s statement I have decided to quote some of the best excerpts that he gave in his sermon.
In the story of Creation, the 78-year-old Pontiff recalled, we see that celebrations are the invention of God who rested from his labors on the seventh day.
Even at the workplace too, for birthdays, a new baby, a marriage, the Holy Father underscored, we celebrate. When we take a break from our work for these important occasions it reminds us we are made in the image and likeness of God, “who is not a slave to work, but the Lord of work!” “And so we must never be slaves to work but rather its master!” he said.
Francis lamented how millions of people around the world, even children, are slaves to work and how human life is often put at risk for abuses of “economic profit” and “technical efficiency.”
“In this time, there are slaves, they are exploited, slaves of work and this is against God and against the dignity of the human person!” the Pope said.
The Pontiff also highlighted the sacredness of prayer and quiet moments with God. During our moments of rest on a Sunday, we find God. The Eucharist brings all of Jesus’ graces to our celebrations, Francis noted, such as His presence, love and sacrifice. In this way, in this way of being with us, the Lord forms us into a community, he said.1
Workaholicism and the failure to keep the Lord’s Day Holy is a common phenomenon that pervades our modern world. A lot of unnecessary work and shopping, amongst many other things, occur on Sunday when they should not. This I think is highly the result of a several-fold factor. These factors are the effects of secularization, materialism, consumerism, the “profit motive” and also to a large extent the theologically faulty “Protestant Work Ethic,” which is a sociological theory coined by Marx Weber to explain the success of free enterprise and capitalism on the basis of protestant theology and beliefs with a strong emphasis on Calvinistic theology.
There is no doubt that these specific philosophical notions have lead largely to this workaholicism but also sadly to a large extent the diminishing and downplaying of “keeping the Lord’s day holy,” for how can one do this when mundane things like unnecessary work and shopping are done on this specific day? These philosophically and theologically flawed notions listed above have destroyed the sacredness of the Lord’s Day and Christendom and the Christian culture altogether. I have come across many upon many of immigrants who have come from various Catholic or even non-Catholic communities in which the Christian faith has a strong influence on society. These immigrants have fallen into this workaholicism, and consumeristic shopping because they have given in to these flawed notions. They have not only diminished the Lord’s Day but many have outright abandoned there Christian faith because of this inordinate importance but on work and shopping.
For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul? (Mark 8:36)
No Unnecessary Work on Sunday
One of the three ways that the Lord’s Day is supposed to be kept holy but is not is in regards to resting on Sunday. I will get into several ways about how one ought to and how one can keep the Lord’s Day as a day of recreation, relaxation, and with the family in the last section. However it should be noted right now that the Lord’s Day requires rest and that means from unnecessary work. God Himself rested. God did not have to rest, He is God, perfection Himself, full of energy and “The unmoved mover” as philosophically understood. However God rested on the seventh day as an example of a genuine necessity of rest and of not doing unnecessary work.
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. And he blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. (Genesis 2:2-3)
Furthermore it should be noted the severity of which God commanded individuals of keeping the Lord’s day holy by desisting from doing unnecessary works in the Old Testament:
But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates.( Exodus 20:10)
“And it came to pass, when the children of Israel were in the wilderness, and had found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day, That they brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole multitude. And they put him into prison, not knowing what they should do with him. And the Lord said to Moses: Let that man die, let all the multitude stone him without the camp. And when they had brought him out, they stoned him, and he died as the Lord had commanded.” (Numbers 15:32–36)
As Christians we now keep Holy the Lord’s Day (Sunday) because Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies and scriptures. He had furthermore risen on Sunday “The eight day.” Emulating Our Lord, Christians now observe the Lord’s Day and strive to keep it holy. So what works are specifically prohibited and which works are acceptable on Sunday?
This is what the current Canon Law of 1983 (The universal law of the Church) has to say:
On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body” (CIC 1247).
Based on this quote we know that the Church and God Himself requires and wills that Catholics attend Mass above all things but also to avoid things which move away or degrade from the sacredness of this day. Furthermore the Church states that the works which are to be avoided are what are known as “Servile” works. Servile works are specifically works that are considered “manual”, given for another individual (an employer), or for mere living (a wage or profit).
This means that most people who work for any sort of living in any form such business owners “the self-employed,” or those who work for an employee (e.g., retail, fast-food, commerce, corporate, restaurants, etc.,) should all try to get Sundays off.
Obviously there are certain types of works which are acceptable in nature. These include those for example that are considered “liberal” works, work that is recreational, or relaxing in nature. “Some types of work might fall into either category, e.g., working on an old car might be work for a mechanic, but sheer joy for the car buff; cooking might be drudgery for the short order cook, but bliss for the woman who truly loves to cook.”2 Similarly any act of charity or work that is related to the common good of society is acceptable as well. Works related to medicine, hospitals, law enforcements, firefighting and other related works are exceptions.
I will finish by saying that even chores and many other mundane types of works which are not altogether sinful to do, should also be done on days other than Sunday. Why wait to do all the mundane chores such as doing laundry, cleaning the house, and even doing things like taking out the trash, which detract from the other activities that Sunday was meant for! Try to do these mundane chores on other days so that the Lord’s Day is not spend in mundanity.
No shopping on Sunday!
Similarly not shopping on Sunday should also in many ways be the norm for keeping the Lord’s Day holy. Just as it is sinful to do unnecessary work on Sunday and which degrades the dignity and sacredness of the Lord’s Day, doing unnecessary shopping also does the same thing. When you shop on Sunday you encourage others to work on the Lord’s Day so that you can do your shopping. “By the same token, Catholics should refrain from putting others in the position of performing servile work on Sundays, too. Shopping, eating in restaurants, going to movies, etc., require that others perform servile work at shops, restaurants, and cinemas. Stay home, visit private homes, etc.; don’t encourage others to break God’s commandments.”3
In many Catholic and even Protestant countries, and even surprisingly in many secular cultures, there had always been many laws which are known as “blue laws” which prohibit certain activities such as shopping on Sunday. Many regions throughout the United States and throughout Europe still prohibit or at least discourage stores from remaining open on Sunday.
Now just as several works are acceptable to do on Sundays so this is true in regards to shopping. Buying food, medicine, and other “essentials” are ok and permissible, however just as even chores should be done at other days of the week, this is true in regards to even these essentials if possible.
A day of sacredness
I had already quoted the Canon Law of the Church in regards to going to Mass and on why specifically shopping and working diminish from the sacredness of the Lord’s Day in many ways. However in this section I wanted to point out several ways that families and individuals can keep the sacredness of Sunday.
Obviously going to Sunday Mass is a must in regards to keeping the Lord’s day holy, however there are many other ways in which families and individuals can keep the day holy. Reading scripture, praying with the family, studying the faith, and reading the lives of the saints are several of many ways that the Lord’s Day can be kept holy.
A day of recreation and of the family
It is specifically just as God rested that the Lord’s Day should be treated as a day of recreation with the family and of relaxing the body, mind and soul. This goes very well with what the Pope spoke of in regards to his sermon in the beginning of the post. This also fits in very well as to why servile work ought to be avoided, as well as unnecessary shopping. These sort of things not only detract away from the sacredness of the Lord’s Day but also detracts away from the recreational and familial atmosphere of Sunday.