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Thou Shalt Take it Easy: 7 Reasons to Embrace Sunday Rest
December 29, 2014
Recently, my wife and I were at a Catholic thrift store we frequent, and posted prominently by the entrance was a large sign announcing that beginning in January, the store would now be open on Sundays. The sign explained that Sunday used to be a special day for family, for worship, and for rest—but it simply isn’t that anymore. Instead, it is just another day to get things done. “We want to meet people where they are,” the sign concluded, “and that means being open on Sunday.”
My wife and I were saddened. We had been proud of this store for being one of the handful that still closed on Sunday. In a day when nothing but profit remains sacred, it’s hard to believe that only 50 or so years ago, everything was closed on Sunday. Catholic, protestant, or secular, the culture recognized the uniqueness of Sunday as a day of rest.
But while the culture is racing madly about, being “productive” on Sunday, we Catholics should still respect the Lord’s day. Here are seven reasons why you should rest on Sunday.
1. God commands it
The first and foremost reason for resting on Sundays is because God commands it. In Exodus chapter 20, God gives his people ten commandments that summarize the moral law. Among these is a commandment to “remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” How is the sabbath to be kept holy? By resting.
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates.
Mother Church also instructs the faithful to rest on Sundays, including a commandment to rest as the first of her six precepts.
“The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the Lord, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the Eucharistic celebration, in which the Christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days” (CCC #2042).
In other words, go to Mass and then enjoy some leisure.
2. God rested
When you think of resting on Sundays, you may immediately begin to think of reasons why it is impractical. Perhaps you don’t feel tired, or maybe you have too much to get done to take a day off, or maybe you simply don’t want to.
Whatever the reasons you come up with, though, your excuses are exploded by the fact that God rested on the seventh day—and if anyone didn’t need to take a break, it was him! Think about it, God has unlimited energy. Creating the universe, magnificent and complex at it is, did not tax God’s strength. He could have created a million universes without breaking a sweat. And yet he rested.
There are deeply theological reasons for God’s Sabbath rest that can perhaps be explored in another post, but the point is, God rested, and so should we.
3. You actually need it
Whether you think so or not, you need to rest on Sundays. Unlike God, you do not have unlimited creative energy. It is a scientific fact that the human brain and body can only take so much activity without deteriorating dramatically. The vast majority of us are overworked and stressed out, teetering on the brink of burnout. In fact, business is a badge of honor in some circles.
Stress is hard on the body, and rest is absolutely essential to productivity. St. Thomas once said, “Without work, it is impossible to have fun.” This could easily be reversed: Without fun (rest), it is impossible to work effectively. You need a day off to recuperate before tackling a new work week.
4. Family and friends
When is the last time you shared a family meal with your wife and children or close relatives? Big Sunday meals with the family after Mass used to be a highlight of every Catholic week. They still should be.
The modern world, fueled by technology, has left us more isolated than ever before. The lack of face-to-face, personal interaction has left families fragmented and many people painfully lonely. Sundays, if properly respected, offer a unique opportunity to spend time with those we love, whether that is family or friends.
5. Prayer and spiritual reading
The saints tell us that prayer is absolutely essential to salvation. Spiritual reading, too, offers us an opportunity to hear God speaking in return. These two activities should be weekly habits for every Catholic.
Yet, despite their critical importance, many of us are so busy that we feel we simply do not have time to pray, read, or meditate as we want to. That’s why Sundays are so important—they offer us the space we need to commune with our Lord, both literally in the Holy Eucharist, but also in restful times of prayer and meditation on the truths of the Faith.
6. Things you enjoy
Creativity is part of being made in the image of God. It is fascinating to me that cultures of the past had far less of what we would consider free time, and yet everything they made—from tools to blankets to clothing—was made beautiful with intricate patterns and decorations. These days, we have countless conveniences that give us incredible amounts of free-time, but rather than creating, we merely consume.
It is important for men to have a creative outlet. The options are endless—writing, woodworking, gardening, model building, working on engines, leather-working, and a lot more. Again, Sunday offers a unique opportunity to work with our hands, doing something we enjoy for its own sake.
Sundays are all about rest, and there’s no better way to celebrate this fact than with a good nap. To be honest, I would feel pretty guilty if I took a nap in the middle of the day during the rest of the week when there are many obligations to attend to (my boss probably wouldn’t appreciate it either). But on Sundays, I take a guilt free nap if I feel like it, and it really is great. You should try it sometime.
Thou Shalt Take it Easy
If you think about it, it’s really a beautiful thing that God commands us to rest. He is not a slave-driver or brutal taskmaster, pushing us to exhaustion and burnout. On the contrary, he is a loving Father who knows and desires what is best for his children. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart,” Jesus said, “and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I would encourage you to examine your Sunday routine and look for concrete ways to make it more restful and relaxing. Cut out the the unnecessary shopping and errands. Make it a day of quiet, rest, fun, prayer, friends, and family.
Our Lord, in his great love for you, is commanding you to keep holy his day by setting aside the to-do list and enjoying some rest. Six days thou shalt run around like a madman, but on the seventh, thou shalt rest, take it easy, play a little bit. Really. Just do it.
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