Hungering for the Lord’s Day Holiness is a right relationship with God: “Be holy; for I the LORD am holy” (Leviticus 20:26). Our hunger and thirst for righteousness makes us hunger and thirst for God and for keeping his special Day holy, thus fulfilling the Third Commandment.
Think: if you love your mother, wouldn’t you do something special for her on Mothers’ Day or on her birthday? If you love a dear friend, wouldn’t you make their birthday or patron name’s day special as well? This is how we maintain right relationships. So, if Sunday is the Lord’s Day—his special day—then we want to keep it special—better yet, keep it holy! Sunday is special because on this day he rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles at Pentecost (see CCC 2191), establishing his irrevocable covenant with the Church making us his family. So Sunday is the Lord’s anniversary of our covenant with him (see CCCC 450). Holy Days of Obligation are other special days or anniversaries of God’s love for us.
Holy Days of Obligation in the United States
- January 1: Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God
- Ascension Thursday (Now moved to the Sunday before Pentecost in many dioceses)
- August 15: Assumption of Mary
- November 1: All Saints Day
- December 8: Immaculate Conception
We keep a day holy by renewing our covenant with God at Mass, which is an intimate encounter and union with Christ in the Eucharist. The Mass is a “foretaste of the fullness of joy promised by Christ… the anticipation of heaven… [and the] ‘pledge of future glory’” where we will be satisfied! (St. John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 18). So, let’s attend the Mass with love by getting to church early (perhaps you can look over the readings…).
We can be excused from attending Holy Mass on the Lord’s Day; yet as the obligation is serious so too should be the excuse: just as illness, dangerous travel conditions, family emergencies would keep us from an important family event, so too it would excuse us from attending Mass. When in doubt, ask a priest for dispensation from the Sunday obligation.
Keeping Sunday holy also means we refrain from unnecessary work (see Deuteronomy 5:12-14 and CCCC 453) so as to put Christ first in our lives. To make Sunday a family day, focus your plans on your spiritual family (the Church) and your earthly family and friends. This can include family activities (visits, outings…); additional parish or religious activity (prayer, spiritual reading, studying the faith, pilgrimages); recreation and culture (reading a good book, visiting museums, sports events, concerts, lectures, etc., or exercising, hiking, gardening, hobbies, etc.) then share what you do with others. It is especially commendable to perform works of mercy (visiting the sick, those in hospitals or nursing homes; assisting family members with special needs; teaching religious education; helping the poor at soup kitchens, etc.). Think: making Mothers’ Day special would include kids playing with and being on good terms with each other, and being willing to serve each other. This makes mom happy… and God happy too!
We need some people to work on Sunday, such as by police officers, fire fighters, medical personnel, etc. Servicing restaurants or recreational activities (such as ballparks) is also permitted. We should avoid consumerism, unnecessary shopping, and making unnecessary demands on others, treating the Lord’s Day as any other day (See CCC 2195).
When we don’t set time aside for God and his family we are saying that our activity is more important. So, let’s hunger and thirst for the holiness of our Lord’s special day, making it our special day as well.