The Sanctity of the Lord’s Day

At our last men’s group, we discussed the readings from last weekend which included the Lord’s command to the Apostles: “rest a while” (Mk 6). One of our men asked me to describe Christian “rest”.

The first thing to say is that Jesus was telling the Apostles to take a little retreat. We understand a retreat to be a break from everyday life, often for a few days. From that men’s discussion, then, has come the idea for a weekend retreat for parishioners. More info will be provided soon!

Every Sunday is a day of rest, like a mini-retreat. Sunday is the Christian Sabbath because it is the day of the Resurrection. It is also honored as “the day of the Lord” to commemorate the day the Lord rested from the work of creation. So, Christians have approached Sunday as a way to honor the third commandment, “Keep holy the Sabbath” as well as Christ’s commandment to “rest a while”.

A day of rest does not mean that we do nothing. In fact, there are Sunday activities of which every Christian should be aware and should incorporate into the first day of the week. Here are some:

  • Worship
  • Prayer
  • Rest & Relaxation
  • Re-creation & Renewal
  • Family life
  • Social relationships
  • Redskins games (at least I didn’t put this first haha)

St. John Paul II wrote about Christian rest and the day of the Lord in his apostolic letter, Dies Domini (1998). Here are some excerpts:

[Christians] are obliged in conscience to arrange their Sunday rest in a way which allows them to take part in the Eucharist, refraining from work and activities which are incompatible with the sanctification of the Lord’s Day, with its characteristic joy and necessary rest for spirit and body (67).

In order that rest may not degenerate into emptiness or boredom, it must offer spiritual enrichment, greater freedom, opportunities for contemplation and fraternal communion. Therefore, among the forms of culture and entertainment which society offers, the faithful should choose those which are most in keeping with a life lived in obedience to the precepts of the gospel (68).

Sharing in the Eucharist is the heart of Sunday, but the duty to keep Sunday holy cannot be reduced to this. In fact, the Lord’s Day is lived well if it is marked from beginning to end by grateful and active remembrance of God’s saving work. This commits each of Christ’s disciples to shape the other moments of the day — those outside the liturgical context: family life, social relationships, moments of relaxation — in such a way that the peace and joy of the Risen Lord will emerge in the ordinary events of life (52).

Finally, some practical suggestions for Sunday rest from

If you have a family, perhaps you might wish to get together as a family to plan special family activities for Sunday. This does not mean you need to spend money. Even what otherwise might be a “chore,” such as gardening or working on a home improvement project, might offer opportunities for “spiritual enrichment, greater freedom, [and] fraternal communion” when done together as a family.

If you are single, you could plan to spend the day with friends or with extended family. If you have a skill you truly enjoy, such as cooking or some other creative activity, perhaps you might offer it to someone in need. For example, perhaps you have an elderly neighbor who would enjoy a home-cooked meal.

Perhaps there is a local charity that would be happy to accept hand-sewn clothing or hand-crafted toys for the needy in your community.

In short, Sundays and the holy days of obligation should be time each week, and several days throughout the year, to live out the joy of our Lord’s Resurrection.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg