Friday, July 8, 2011

A Moment With Brother: The Lord's Day

From time to time, readers of our humble publication, The Little Troubadour, write in for advice of the friars. Their questions or troubles often concern things that affect us all. Over the past year I have dedicated some space in our magazine to answer these questions. I thought it might be helpful to share them here as well.

Katrina from Southport writes,

Dear Brother,

Why do we as Catholics observe Sunday as the Lord’s Day? Friends of mine who are now Seventh Day Adventists tell me that as Catholics we are not following the Word of God.

Dear Katrina,

We again see that when we separate the Sacred Scriptures from the authority of the Church, which is its authentic interpretation and helps us to understand it correctly, that we are at risk of distorting the meaning of the Bible for us as Christians.

The third commandment of God is: “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Originally this referred to the seventh day, the day on which God rested after the work of creation. Our Jewish brothers and sisters continue to keep Saturday as the Sabbath day.

But for Christians, the Sabbath was changed (by the authority of the Church given to it by Christ) from Saturday to Sunday, to recall the Resurrection of our Lord from the dead on Easter Sunday and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday, when the Church began the mission of the proclaiming the Gospel. Sunday, as ‘the first day of the week’ (Mark 16:2), “recalls the first creation; and as the ‘eighth day’, which follows the Sabbath, it symbolizes the new creations ushered in by the Resurrection of Christ. Thus, it has become for Christians the first of all days and of all feasts. It is the day of the Lord in which he with his Passover fulfilled the spiritual truth of the Jewish Sabbath and proclaimed man’s eternal rest in God” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 452). So the obligation of heeding the law of God has not changed, but through God’s redemption of the world he has providentially re-ordered this observance to reflect the fulfillment of the Old Covenant through the New Covenant in Christ.

As Christians we are called to keep Sunday as a holy day, “by refraining from those activities which impede the worship of God and disturb the joy proper to the day of the Lord or the necessary relaxation of mind and body” (Compendium, 453). Sadly, our society has made Sunday like any other day. Many forget the Lord’s Day and engage in unnecessary activities which disturb our rest. We mow the lawn, pull out the leaf blower and wash the car. Sunday is to be a day of rest and worship. We are called to abstain form unnecessary work. Of course there are people who are employed on Sundays and this is unavoidable in our society, especially in occupations of essential service to the community. But if we can cut the grass or paint the house on another day, then we should leave Sunday as a day to relax, to enjoy the gifts of God, to recreate and give thanks to Him through our participation at Holy Mass.

In coming to Mass, we should be conscious that we are celebrating our new creation in Christ. We come dressed for the occasion, and yet too frequently we come as if dressed for the football or the beach. It is to our shame that in poor countries people still wear their ‘Sunday best’ to church (which is often their only decent clothing) in order to show fitting respect for God. Being human, a unity of body and spirit, we worship God not only with mind and soul, but also with our bodies. We should therefore be modest in our dress. While our easy going nature as Australians is a great quality, we must be careful that this does not become laziness and irreverence towards God, nor scandalous through a lack of courtesy towards others.

Such matters concerning a proper observance of Sunday were addressed by Bl. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter to the Church Dies Domini. It might be a good idea for us to read this so that we can all give due respect to the Lord’s Day and keep it holy.

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