Remember the sabbath day — keep it holy. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your work animal, or the resident alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)
When I was a child, it was not difficult to honor the Sabbath. Very few stores were open, and it was unheard of for sports and activities to happen on Sunday. But these days, keeping Sunday holy, or set apart, can be difficult, because our world is constantly open for business — and busyness. Today, it takes a little more courage to live Sunday differently.
Over the past few months, four unique individuals have encouraged me in my practice of the Third Commandment. I don’t know about you, but when I receive a message repeatedly, I cannot help but sit up and take notice. Is God inviting me, through these people, to pay closer attention to how I honor the Sabbath?
Holy Saturday’s Example
We only need to open the Scriptures to see how vital the Sabbath is. In fact, the word “Sabbath” is mentioned 169 times in the Bible! As an example of its importance, let’s take a glimpse at what Jesus’ followers did immediately after His crucifixion, death, and burial.
It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid; then they returned, and prepared spiced and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment. (Luke 23:55-56)
In the midst of their tremendous sorrow and pain, in the midst of chaos in their city, in the midst of uncertainty and fear, Jesus’ friends rested and honored the Lord’s Day.
How often do we take time to rest on Sunday when life is relatively normal, let alone when life is swirling with chaos? But God clearly shows us that the Sabbath is fundamental for our wellbeing.
For Jesus’ followers, it gave them time to wait, to pray, to hope, and to trust. For us, it does the same. Without pausing in a constantly moving world, we cannot possibly hear God’s still small voice sharing with us what the dawn of a new day — or a new week — will bring.
Cultivating a New Habit
If your family is like mine and has not been in the habit of keeping the Sabbath holy, fear not! God does not want us to feel discouraged. With His grace, we can begin anew! And with any new habit, the more we practice it, the stronger and better we become.
Here are 6 tips to help us honor the Sabbath:
- Plan it. Keeping the Sabbath holy won’t happen on its own. We must plan for it. Set aside projects for another day. Say “no” to things that will steal you away from honoring the Sabbath.
- Ritualize it. Set a simple display on the kitchen table or home altar that indicates that Sunday is special. Dress the table with a pretty cloth, candle, flowers, and favorite icon or religious image.
- Simplify it. Unless you love to cook, simplify meals on Sunday. If you love to cook, however, spend a bit more leisurely time in the kitchen. Be sure to shop for groceries before Sunday!
- Enjoy it. So, aside from Mass, what do we do on the Sabbath? There are plenty of meaningful activities we can enjoy, while still honoring the Lord’s Day. Here are some examples: reading, hobbies, games, bike rides, or picnics.
- Quiet it. With so much noise in our world, often we just need a bit of quiet. On Sundays, take time for extended prayer. Use the ancient custom of lectio divina to pray with Sunday’s scripture readings. Pray a family Rosary. Take a nap. Silence phones, and turn off computers. As St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “God speaks in the silence of the heart.”
- Do it. As with many things, it is important not to have an “all or nothing” mentality about the Sabbath. So start small. For example, my family is starting with a few hours: from the time we wake up until 3 p.m., at which time we resume regular activities such as homework and laundry. As we form a better habit, we hope to slowly extend our Sabbath time.
God, in his wisdom, invites us to keep Sunday holy. He knows our bodies, minds, and souls need periodic rest, in order to carry on with the work He has for us.
How will you answer His call to honor the Sabbath?
Copyright 2018 Sarah Damm