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Sunday: A Day for Families

11/1/2014

Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori

Growing up in Southern Indiana, I always looked forward to Sundays. For one thing, the possibility of a priestly vocation occurred to me early in life, so I was naturally interested in the celebration of Mass.

After the liturgy each week, my family would usually eat at home. Once in a while, though, we would pile into our DeSoto and head across the Ohio River to Louisville for hamburgers and a picnic in the park. Returning home midafternoon, I tried to use what little I knew of religion to avoid doing homework. I would tell my mom that Sunday was a day of rest and I was exempt from “servile labor.” It didn’t fly!

Those memories came back to me when I reflected on this month’s theme of the Knights of Columbus program Building the Domestic Church: “Because God rested on the seventh day, we want to celebrate Sunday as a family” (see page 22). Sunday is meant to be a day of prayer, a day of togetherness — in short, a day of “re-creation” for our families.

THE DIVINE REST

In the Book of Genesis we read how God created the world in all its wonder. His creation bore the imprint of his wisdom and love. He made man in his image and endowed him with dignity and freedom. Scripture then tells us, “On the seventh day God completed the work he had been doing; he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken” (Gen 2:2).

What does it mean to say that God “rested”? Should we imagine a celestial recliner and a really large-screen TV? Of course not! Unlike us, God does not get tired, even if we do our best to weary him. God is never inactive; at every moment, the Triune God upholds all creation. In his rest, God looked with love upon all he had made and wed himself to the human family.

God’s “labor” and his “rest” have something special to say to all of us, but especially to families. Much of the week, we are working and keeping our lives in good order. In many families, both the father and the mother work outside the home. Their children are also busy with schoolwork, sports and other activities. Mobile devices, meanwhile, keep most of us tethered to our daily work. Family schedules can be hectic, to the point where there is seldom a night when everyone is home for dinner. Such frenetic activity can lead us to forget the purpose of our work: Sharing in God’s creative activity, we labor to create a better world, a “civilization of love.”

In short, we all need time to rejuvenate. A day of rest, including not going to work or to school, signals a break from the pressures and irritants of our daily routine. It’s a time to put our concerns in their proper perspective, a time to reflect on the past week and the week ahead, and a time to talk things over in the family circle.

So important is this Sabbath rest that its observance is listed among the Ten Commandments. For Christians, the Sabbath is observed on Sunday, the Lord’s Day. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, Sunday is the “eighth day” that “symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection” (2174).

KEEPING SUNDAY HOLY

Just as our work is part of God’s creative activity, so too should our rest resemble in some way God’s “rest.”

I suggest that Sunday is a day for families to return to that love which makes them a family. Getting up early and getting children ready for Sunday Mass might not strike everyone as “rest.” But when we go to Mass with hearts and minds that are well prepared and disposed, we can experience God’s love for the world and for ourselves. We can offer him our daily work of heart and hand and ask for what we need. Most of all, we can be renewed in that love by which God “married” his people in the ultimate covenant of love. This is the love that brings a man and a woman together in holy matrimony and that moms and dads are called to share with their children. When we receive Our Lord in holy Communion, we are drawn into God’s covenant and, at the same time, are given the strength to reflect that self-giving love in marriage and family life. By sharing Christ’s gift of self, renewed at every Mass, spouses and families find peace, solace, renewal and solidarity.

To be sure, not every teenage son or daughter is giddy with anticipation about Sunday Mass, and many face the competing demands, including sporting events, which are often scheduled on Sunday mornings. This is why it is urgently important for parents to work with Catholic schools and parish religious education programs to impart to young people a deeper appreciation for Sunday Mass and to model that appreciation in their own lives. It is equally important for parish communities to go out of their way to welcome families and young people, equipping them to be agents of evangelization.

With Sunday Mass as the centerpiece of the day, family members might be more inclined to spend time with one another, to enjoy one another’s company, and to engage in activities as a family. Reflecting on the Lord’s Day, St. John Paul II noted that “the relaxed gathering of parents and children can be an opportunity not only to listen to one another but also to share a few formative and more reflective moments” (Dies Domini, 52).

In this light, I wish you and your families not merely a pleasant weekend, but a joyous and truly restful Sunday!