Friday, November 22, 2013

Is going to Mass all we need to do on Sunday?

As a Catholic you probably know that you are obligated, under pain of mortal sin, to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each and every Sunday (or on its vigil). This is one of the "Five Precepts of the Church" and is mentioned explicitly in the Cathecism of the Catholic Church:

The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.119 Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.(2181)
 However, once we've fulfilled this obligation can we treat Sunday as just another day? Must Catholics rest of Sundays? Or is that just a matter for Fundamentalists and Pentecostals? It is important to note that our obligation isn't just to attend Mass, but to sanctify the entire day by using it as a time of rest, relaxation, and worship.

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical dedicated to Sunday, Dies Domini, reminds us that:

"the link between the Lord's Day and the day of rest in civil society has a meaning and importance which go beyond the distinctly Christian point of view. The alternation between work and rest, built into human nature, is willed by God himself, as appears in the creation story in the Book of Genesis (cf. 2:2-3; Ex 20:8-11): rest is something "sacred", because it is man's way of withdrawing from the sometimes excessively demanding cycle of earthly tasks in order to renew his awareness that everything is the work of God." (65)

 Nor is this just recent teaching of the Church. Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum (from 1891) teaches that we have an

"obligation of the cessation from work and labor on Sundays and certain holy days. The rest from labor is not to be understood as mere giving way to idleness; much less must it be an occasion for spending money and for vicious indulgence, as many would have it to be; but it should be rest from labor, hallowed by religion." (41)
Which reflects the ancient teaching of the Church, stretching back to the Fathers and the regional Council of Laodicea, held in 362.

"Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord's day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians."(Canon 29).

And in the Code of Canon Law we find this requirement expressed.

"On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass.

Moreover, they are to abstain from those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body
." (1247)

As you can see, Sunday rest is not just a matter for Fundementalists, but is a deep part of our Catholic heritage. 

This Sunday allow the Mass to be the centerpiece of the day. Plan everything else around it. Allow yourself to rest. Don't work. Don't even think about work. Spend extra time with God in prayer. Spend extra time with your family. Prefigure the rest which we all strive to enter into when this life draws to a close.

Nota bene: The rest we are called to as Christians is different than the strictly regulated Sabbath of Judaism. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, in the Second Part of the Second Part of the Summa Theologiae:

"In the New Law the observance of the Lord's day took the place of the observance of the Sabbath, not by virtue of the precept but by the institution of the Church and the custom of Christian people. For this observance is not figurative, as was the observance of the Sabbath in the Old Law. Hence the prohibition to work on the Lord' day is not so strict as on the Sabbath: and certain works are permitted on the Lord's day which were forbidden on the Sabbath, such as the cooking of food and so forth. And again in the New Law, dispensation is more easily granted than in the Old, in the matter of certain forbidden works, on account of their necessity, because the figure pertains to the protestation of truth, which it is unlawful to omit even in small things; while works, considered in themselves, are changeable in point of place and time." (Q. 122, A. 4)

Therefore, our brothers who work as police officers, EMTs, ER doctors and in other emergency fields are exempted from the requirement of Sunday rest, as are other Catholics whose jobs do not allow them to take Sunday off.

What do you plan on doing this Sunday to hallow the entire day?

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