Keeping Holy the Sabbath

March 12, 2020 - 1:48pm

Keeping Holy the Sabbath


One of the things I want to change in my life this Lent is to make Sunday a true day of rest instead of a day to prepare for the week.  So often my Sunday’s go the same way.


It’s like clockwork. We get up, head to Mass, and then straight to the grocery store to get food for the week.  Then, I will help straighten the house, work on the yard, pay some bills, answer emails, do the laundry, cook meals, and make sure the to-do list is caught up.


After I am done with my list, it is my objective to sit in front of the TV with a few snacks and try and prolong the Sunday as much as I can until I get too tired to remain awake.  Finally, I head off to bed.  There is no resting and there is no Lord’s day for me most Sunday’s, other than going to Mass.  I’m working the whole time and next day don't feeling rested.


I don’t think this is how God intended me to live on Sunday.  In Mark 2:27 it says, “Jesus said to them, ’The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’”


I find it interesting that in Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were so hardcore with the way the law was supposed to be followed, that they demanded adherence to "not-working" to a point that made no sense.  In our time, I think many of us do the exact opposite.  We spend the Sunday as another work-day.


I want to move towards a Sunday that is truly a day of rest for the Lord.  I have a vision in my mind of having friends and family over on Sundays playing games, laughing, eating, and truly resting.  Then, instead of Sunday night in front of the TV, it could be an evening of reading, prayer, and family discussions.  This vision is not for everyone and one must determine what resting looks like to them.  But currently, I don’t rest on Sunday’s and this is something I am determined to change.


The vision behind spending time with friends and family on Sundays conjures thoughts from a book I skimmed not too long ago called, Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper.  He artfully describes modern notions of leisure in a way that I think we can all relate to.  “Leisure…appears as something wholly fortuitous and strange, without rhyme or reason, and morally speaking, unseemly: another word for laziness, idleness, and sloth.” (Pieper, page 43) 


Pieper later explains that leisure is something else entirely. 


“The soul of leisure, it can be said, lies in “celebration”.  Celebration is the point at which the three elements of leisure come to a focus: relaxation, effortlessness, and superiority of “active leisure” to all functions.  But if celebration is the core of leisure, then leisure can only be made possible and justifiable on the same basis as the celebration of a festival.  That basis is divine worship.” (Pieper, page 65)


In light of this revelation, the argument can be made that Western culture was built on the back of leisure.  This makes sense if one looks at the Church Liturgical calendar and the built-in feast days, with the celebration of the Mass being the source of the feast.  Everything in Christendom revolved around the Mass, and culture was built when leisure activities manifested themselves in the customs that came from the day in which peoples celebrated of the Holy Eucharist.


Therefore, perhaps my internal longing for resting and leisure on Sunday’s, while living in a modern culture that puts so much value on producing, comes from the very essence of who God created us to be and how to live.


Maybe if we all refocus what our Sundays and Church feast days are about, and rest and take leisure during them, this could not only help re-evangelize society, but rebuild Western culture as well. 


The more time we spend in celebration and in worship of God by feasting instead of working, the more joy we bring to the workplace, and the better we will be at individually contributing to building the Kingdom of God on earth.


It’s funny.  But when leisure it thought about in light of building the Kingdom of God on earth, resting on Sunday, may be more productive than it appears.



Pieper, Josef. Leisure: The Basis of Culture. Ignatuis Press, 2009.

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