What work can we do on Sunday?

Before Jesus gave the Church the authority to observe the Lord’s Day on Sunday, it was traditionally known as the Sabbath and for the Jewish people, it was observed on the seventh day of the week, Saturday. This goes back to Genesis during the creation story when it is said that God rested on the seventh day. To that point, in order to honor the Lord and His day of rest, we are prohibited from doing any unnecessary work on Sunday. But how do we determine what is “unnecessary” work? How can we better observe the day of rest?

Recently on The Patrick Madrid Show, Louis called in to ask Patrick if he was allowed to do housework on Sunday and if so, what would be allowed and what would be a violation of the Sabbath?

“It depends. I’ll give you that as my first answer,” said Patrick. “The spirit of this law is that you should refrain from all unnecessary work on Sunday. Now that would mean if you were painting the house on Sunday, but you could’ve painted it on Friday or Saturday, or you could paint it the following week, then you should not paint your house on Sunday.” That seems simple enough. If the work is not essential to the general living conditions of the household and it could have been done earlier or can still be done in the future, you should not do it on Sunday.

Patrick went on, saying that if it is something urgent, then that is another matter. He said, for example, if your water heater were to break and there was water all over the place, then that might require you to go to the store, buy new parts, fix it, and clean up the mess. That’s all technically work, but it is necessary for maintaining the basic living conditions of the house. That would be permissible.

“But if you’re thinking, ‘Well, you know, I need to get around to changing that water heater and that’s going to take 2-3 hours of work and I’ve got to go up to Lowe’s and get a new water heater…’ That’s unnecessary if you could’ve done it at any other time but you decide, ‘Well, I’ve got some free time on Sunday. I’ll do it on Sunday.’ That would be a violation of the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath Day.”

Patrick said that this formula also applies to professional work. If someone like an OBGYN were called to deliver a baby on Sunday, that would not only supersede the prohibition from work, but it might also relieve them of their Sunday obligation to go to Mass. The work that they are doing cannot wait and it could not have been done in the past.

Patrick closed by saying that we should approach the observance of the Lord’s Day pragmatically. If there are obvious things that need doing like the preparation of food or the repair of an integral home appliance, those things need to be done immediately, so doing them on Sunday is permitted. But other than that, we should approach the activities of the day with a sense of leisure and contemplative nature. In that way, we honor God and His day of rest.

Listen to the full question and answer below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.