We all need a break.“The alternation between work and rest, built into human nature, is willed by God himself,” said Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter Dies Domini, May 31, 1988. Vacations, like the weekend days of rest, are universally valued: note the happy mood that always fills the air when people leave the office on Fridays. But be careful not to mistake “weekend” for Sunday—Sunday rest is much more than a simple moment of relaxation. If it were nothing more than that, we could take any day of the week off; so, why Sunday?
Resting on Sunday will set you in the direction of the Kingdom
Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, and the Resurrection is what gives meaning to everything we experience on Earth. Resting on Sunday is more than just not having to work — it is, in a deeper way, getting back on track to the Kingdom. In this way, Sunday puts a vertical dimension back into our lives, whereas the “weekend” only offers a horizontal perspective.
Resting on Sunday is an act of faith and hope. It’s not always easy to get ourselves to stop and put aside all the paperwork we’re behind on, or getting our bank accounts in order. Sunday is given to us to find the Kingdom, with the assurance that “the rest will tag along.” Leaving our work aside is a clear way of showing that we trust in God. It means recognizing that all things come from Him, that when we work we are participating in his work as Creator, and that, without Him, we can do nothing. Don’t be afraid, the Holy Father tells us time and again. Don’t be afraid to give your time to Christ.
Sunday, a day of joy
Sunday should be our greatest day of joy: the joy of celebrating risen Jesus truly present among us, the joy of the Resurrection that we are all called to, the joy of knowing that all our life here on Earth is a road to the Kingdom and that, Sunday by Sunday, the Church advances to the final day of the Lord, the eternal Sunday.
However, if Sunday rest gets bad press, it is because most Sundays are full of inactivity and boredom. We urgently need to invent joyful Sundays, to find a means to live in community, in family, among friends, in Sundays marked by simplicity and happiness, so that Sunday is never an empty day feared by so many isolated people.
At the heart of Sunday is the Eucharist. Participating in Mass every Sunday is not a luxury reserved for those who have nothing better to do, nor an option for the very pious: it is a vital necessity.
Ever since the very first centuries, Christians felt the “inner need” to unite every Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist, sometimes even at the risk of their lives. “It was only later, faced with the half-heartedness or negligence of some, that the Church had to make explicit the duty to attend Sunday Mass: more often than not, this was done in the form of exhortation, but at times the Church had to resort to specific canonical precepts,” (Pope John Paul II apostolic letter Dies Domini, May 31, 1988 § 47). In other words, the Church had to clearly state that participation in Sunday mass is a serious obligation, an essential act that our spiritual life depends on. If the Church invites us to sanctify Sunday it is because we need it. We should not disregard this gift.