One of my fondest and earliest memories of childhood is the way we as a family celebrated Sunday.
Sunday always started with morning Mass. We were not a sleep late family and were out the door for 9:00am Mass. My mom rose early to start Sunday dinner on the stove – always pasta, sauce, meatballs and sausage (except in the heat of the summer when dad would declare that a backyard cookout was in order). After a mid-day meal, in which we all sat at the dining room table, the rest of the day was spent at home in which family would visit or we would spend the day visiting aunt’s, uncle’s or other cousins.
Unfortunately, modern society has attempted to make Sunday into just another day or just a part of the weekend. Stores have some of their busiest selling days on Sunday and the temptation to make Sunday just another run around day has never been greater. Our pastor makes it a point constantly to preach the importance of making Sunday a true “day of the Lord.” He inspired me to re-read Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter Dies Domini – On Keeping the Lord’s Day Holy. This is a beautiful and concise reminder of everything we believe as Catholic Christians on the importance of renewing our dedication and efforts in keeping Sunday as the Lord’s Day. I propose three lessons we can learn from reading Dies Domini that we need to teach our young people regarding the importance of Sunday in the life of the Church and in our own lives.
Lesson #1 – Sunday as the Day of the Resurrection
One of the beautiful truths captured in Dies Domini is the number of times John Paul II links celebrating the Sunday Eucharist with the Solemnity of Easter. In teaching our own children and in our catechetical work, we are emboldened to declare that Sunday is not just another day in the course of the week – no, Sunday is the day we celebrate again and again Easter joy. In the Eastern Churches, every Sunday is the “day of resurrection” (DD 19). On Sunday we recall that the resurrection of the Lord is a “wondrous event which is not only absolutely unique in human history, but which lies at the very heart of the mystery of time” (DD 2).
Modern culture has abandoned any specialness to Sunday and brings Sunday into the broader theme of the weekend. John Paul II says that being hooked into this concept of a weekend can keep “people locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see the heavens” (DD 4). As parents and as teachers, we need to inspire our young people to see the heavens and not be locked into what modern culture deems important or acceptable. One of the most important battles in the fight to take back our culture must begin with reclaiming Sunday as a day special unto the Lord. Through his resurrection from the dead, Christ has sanctified Sunday and made it the day when all Christians are renewed body and soul through the un-bloody sacrifice of the cross offered on altars all across the globe.
Lesson #2 – Sunday, the Eucharist and Works of Charity
John Paul II states that from the Sunday Mass flows a tide of charity destined to spread into the whole life of the faithful, beginning by inspiring the very way in which we live the rest of Sunday. If Sunday is a day of joy we should spend that day in a unique way with others. On Sunday, do we invite people to a meal who may be alone, visit the sick, provide food for needy families and spend a few hours in voluntary work and acts of solidarity (DD 72)? When we as a family of believers and in our own particular families spend time helping others on Sunday, it makes Sunday truly into a day unto the Lord. We bring the love that is Jesus Christ, whom we receive in the Eucharist, into the lives of others. This is a way in which we start inner renewal in our own souls and it inspires us to change the structures of sin in which individuals, communities and at times entire peoples are entangled (DD 73).
In no small measure this is how we start to reclaim our communities and our world. In our own communities and lives we all are aware of people that are in desperate need of assistance and human love. When we make Sunday into our day of living out Christian charity we show others the face of Jesus Christ. Sunday becomes the day in which we live out with missionary zeal the command to make disciples of all nations. It is a way to concretely live out the demands made in Matthew 25:31-46. It teaches our children to put aside their own wants and desires for one day and make it into a day lived in service of others.
Lesson #3 Sunday and Forms of Culture and Entertainment
Sunday offers a unique opportunity to go to a movie, attend a concert or a play, and visit a museum or attend a sporting event. The form we choose should be those which are most in keeping with a “life lived in obedience to the Gospel.” This links the absolute primacy of God with the dignity of the person (DD 68). In choosing wisely where we spend our Sunday we can teach our children that we give praise to the Lord in how we respect our physical being and refresh our minds.
As Christians, what we do cannot and must not be separated from what we believe. The modern tendency to separate man into small parts each having no connection to his spiritual core has become so widespread and culturally acceptable that we almost do not notice it is taking place. The movies and plays we go to, the sporting events we attend and the museums we visit need to show forth to the world a life lived in conformity to the Gospel. The Eucharistic Christ we have just received on Sunday must transform our souls to the core of our being. Sacraments impart the grace of Jesus Christ and in the choices we make on how we spend our Sunday we teach our young people that the Eucharist just received has made us a new person in Jesus Christ. There cannot be one set of beliefs in Church and another set of beliefs when we leave the pew.
As Catholic Christians we are called to celebrate our salvation and the salvation of all humanity. Sunday is the day of joy and the day of rest precisely because it is the Lord’s Day–the day of the Risen Lord (DD 82).