"Remember to keep holy the Lords day"
I can remember my mother preparing the Sunday meal on Saturday evening, the air redolent with the smell of roasting beef, chicken or simmering gumbo. And Creole potato salad was chilling in the refrigerator. There was a special air of festivity about Saturday for it heralded Sunday when we would all go to church, dressed according to the seasons in taffeta or fine sheer dresses puffed out with crinoline petticoats. As a young child church had to be endured in order to gain all the good things that happened on Sunday such as visiting or receiving family and friends, eating a sumptuous meal, or simply lounging around the house until called for homemade peach or vanilla ice cream. We children could play outside without worry of being summoned for special chores because work was not allowed on that day. If at all, Mom and Pop stores would be open for half a day only to accommodate necessities. And so it was not uncommon to see everything including gas stations shut down tight. Businesses came to a halt making one think of ghost towns. Only liquor stores remained stoically open, much to the disdain of churchgoing people. All work including sewing or cleaning beyond making the beds was an absolute no. No repairs on cars, the house, or any unnecessary work was to be tolerated. The Sabbath was sacred.
Today, this has changed dramatically. Practically every store is open. What does catch the eye is the store that seems unreasonably closed on this day when one needs it. Sunday has become the time for doing all the things that were unfinished during the week. Hardware stores and home improvement centers are filled with handymen and homeowners using this holy day for those special jobs they could not do during the working week. Neighboring malls are crowded with shoppers exchanging money for fashion.
So what has happened to the Sabbath? If we believe in Gods 10 commandments are we to ignore this one? If we broke the sixth commandment Thou shall not commit adultery we would be running to confession to cleanse ourselves from this sin. The same is true should we break the fifth or seventh commandment Thou shall not kill or Thou shall not steal.
Perhaps we have put this commandment on a sliding scale of importance in our minds according to our own interpretation. And yet God put it in significance in the top half of His laws as Genesis 2:3 tells us, "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it He had rested from all His work which He had created and made." Because the world has become immune to the holiness of the Sabbath we have gotten used to bending the rules to suit our needs. And most of us are guilty of this in some way. We same Christians who faithfully follow Gods other laws seem to glide over this one and abuse it without a second thought. Palms 89:34 clearly states My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips.
Exodus 20: 8-11 tells us Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; Six days you shall do all your labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall not do any work, not you nor thy son, nor your daughter or your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor the stranger that is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath and hallowed it. After He created earth and being God He did not need to rest but in His wisdom He gave us an example to remember. It is the only commandment in which God uses the word remember. Perhaps it is because He knew we would choose many times to forget this one and go our own way on the Sabbath. He chose to give this commandment because it is a day of remembrance of Gods mighty power of creation. It is a remembrance and a tribute of His mighty power in creating Heaven and earth and all that is in it in six days. If we think seriously about it, we could parallel the remembrance of Gods Sabbath with Christs Eucharist when He, Jesus, said Do this in remembrance of me.
God's action of creating the earth and commanding us to observe the Sabbath is celebrated as we come together in worship and faith at Mass. By participating and receiving the Holy Eucharist we give honor to God. In resting even as He did and abiding by what He decreed for us we are using this day as He intended. It is a day of reflection on what Father did for us as well as a day we can give ourselves up to Him in thanksgiving. Strengthened by submission we can then face the new week. This Commandment asks little from us except a sincere desire to fulfill that obligation.
We dont hear a lot about keeping the Sabbath holy. Part of this commandment is going to Mass on Sunday but there is often nothing said about the rest of the day. Many attend Mass simply to get it over with so they can be free to do the multitude of jobs earmarked for the weekend. Once Mass is finished, it appears we end the obligation. Exodus 31:16-17 tells us "Therefore the children of Israel (and all who believe)shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed". And today we as Catholic Christians have an obligation to observe and obey Gods Commandment. Exodus 16:23 commands "And He said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today; boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until the morning." In order to follow the commandments in total obedience we must try as best we can to observe and keep this commandment of remembrance. This day is given for prayer and rest.
When we give ourselves up to Gods laws we can hope to receive Gods blessing in a very special way. This is spoken of in Isaiah 58:13-14 in which it says If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words; Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; and I will cause you to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
We have moved away from the true meaning of the Sabbath. But we can change this as long as we have life. Let us take a long hard look at what God asked us to do and try to live this day in obedience to His wishes.
GODS TEN COMMANDMENTS
I am the LORD your God: you shall not have strange gods before me.
The Sabbath God decreed is the seventh day (Saturday) and not the first day that we call the Sabbath (Sunday). This Holy Day set aside by God was changed by the Catholic Church centuries ago. The early Catholic Church transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday and all Christian Churches followed in its wake. The Catholic Church felt that because Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and the Holy Ghost descended upon the Apostles on a Sunday the Sabbath should be changed. The Church also felt that Jesus Christ bestowed that Divine Power upon her to do so. Catholic theologians throughout the centuries have agreed however that the Sabbath God so jealously and consistently spoke of was on the seventh day and should be observed on this day that is Saturday. From a different point of view many learned Catholic theologians state that as long as a day is set aside in the week as the Sabbath in strict adherence to this commandment by the faithful it is then a matter of a calendar day change and God in His mercy allows it.