Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day.
At the end of the first story of creation (Genesis 1), it says that God took the seventh day to rest, blessing it and setting it apart (cf. Genesis 2:1-3). An obvious question is why – why would God set this day apart, and take a day to rest? Was He tired? Was He lazy? …or perhaps, was He trying to do something for us?
“The Sabbath recalls in the first place the seven days of creation, when God ‘rested, and was refreshed’ (Exodus 31:17), this, so to speak, authorizes all men to interrupt their work and replenish their energies. Even slaves were supposed to be allowed to observe the sabbath. …The Sabbath is therefore a feast of human freedom; on the Sabbath all breathe freely; on it the division of the world into masters and slaves is abolished. In traditional Judaism this day of freedom and rest is also a sort of foretaste of the world to come.” -YouCat 362
There seem to be two parts as to why God would give us the Sabbath. Practically speaking, human beings are simply not capable of working forever without rest, so a weekly day to rest and be refreshed is simply a good way to take care of ourselves. The Sabbath exists as a sign of God’s care for us, His desire to make sure that we are well. But this is also something more – a sign of His covenant with us. Towards the end of the first Chapter of Genesis, God creates humanity, male and female, in His image, and gives them a mission to “be fruitful and multiply,” creating the first marital relationship – the first covenant, with one holy couple. And to them, as a promise of the good things God wants to give to them, He gives them a day of rest.
One clarification here: the seventh day of the week would be Saturday – which is still celebrated as the Jewish Sabbath. But for Christians, our Holy day is Sunday:
“Christians replaced the celebration of the Sabbath with the celebration of Sunday because Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday. The ‘Lord’s day,’ however, does include elements of the Sabbath.”-YouCat 364
YouCat points out that there are three elements that make up the Christian Sunday:
1) Recalling the creation of the world from Genesis 1 (as discussed above)
2)Recalling the eighth day of creation, when Christ renewed the world by His resurrection
3) Resting, not only interrupting work, but also pointing to our eternal rest in God
So we remember that God created all things, blessed it, and still intends good for us. In addition, we celebrate the fact that Jesus’ resurrection – His victory over sin and death – makes all things new (Revelation 24:15), marking an eighth day of creation. This move was necessary when the early Christians were ejected from the Jewish synagogue, as the two faiths drifted apart – at least in part, as a means to survive persecution.
All of that being said, the question remains what should YOU do with the Lord’s Day? How to you keep it sacred and holy?
“A Catholic Christian attends Holy Mass on Sunday or on the vigil of Sunday. On that day he refrains from all work that would prevent him from worshipping God or disturb the festive, joyful, restful, and restorative character of the day.” -YouCat 365
It starts by getting to Mass. This is a bare minimum, so making space for the Sunday Eucharist with your parish community should be one of the most important parts of your week. But that is not where it needs to end. The Jewish commitment to Sabbath puts most Catholics to shame. They stop everything, visit the synagogue, and have a beautiful family meal, spending the day savoring one another’s company. Take time – just as two spouses will savor date night while the kids are with a babysitter, God calls us to honor Sunday as a day to savor time with Him and with family.
Edit: This is a really cool video from the Franciscan University of Steubenville Youth Conferences, whose theme last year was “The Eighth Day,” explaining the gift of Sunday: