Keep the Sabbath  Day Holy  


Andy Hawes 


Having spent 30 years immersed in rural parishes where Sunday by Sunday I barrelled along country roads from one church to another, I now find myself driving into a market town to attend Sunday mass. I have led a very sheltered life! I never realized that Sunday has, more or less, the same feel and level of activity as any other day. Some readers may remember the Keep Sunday Special campaign. I cannot recall one of their arguments being ‘keep Sunday special and save the nation’s soul’: they should have.

Even the most rural community has not escaped the erosion of the sabbath. Forty years ago, no farmer would undertake field work on a Sunday; 30 years ago there was hardly any community sport on a Sunday; until the Sunday Trading Act, only a few shops opened on a Sunday; even pubs had different licensing hours. In every aspect of life the possibility of keeping the sabbath day holy has becoming increasingly difficult. The commandment concerning the sabbath is fifth out of ten; it is the fulcrum between the commandments relating to God, and the commandments relating to relationships. When this commandment is broken, a healthy relationship both with God and our family and community are jeopardized.

This ‘pollution’ of the sabbath and its consequences are felt in every parish throughout the land. It is a well-established fact that regular Sunday worship is now the exception rather than the rule. Church members take a ‘Sunday off’; there are family reasons, work reasons, recreational reasons, and simply the reason that Church on a Sunday is an option not an obligation. Venerable tradition has taught that to wilfully miss mass on a Sunday is a mortal sin. Is that still true or will God understand that it is the only time the family can go together to the shops?

Surely the truth is that the vast majority of ‘reasons’ that are given for missing church on a Sunday are excuses? They are excuses for avoiding the priority of God’s call on our lives. It is true that keeping the sabbath holy will cause inconvenience, and even controversy, in family life and among friends, but it also an opportunity to witness to the faith. One of my grandsons goes fishing with me; if he wants a Sunday outing then he comes to church with me first. If people are coming for lunch on a Sunday don’t miss church—invite them to come with you. Why is it that no one would challenge a Muslim about attending Friday prayers, or a Jew about Saturday worship, but the general assumption is that for Christians Sunday is optional?

Do not underestimate the spiritual damage that is done both to individuals and to the whole body of the church by this laissez faire attitude to Sunday. This is not someone else’s problem and challenge. It is one every single one of us must face. Give your Sunday back to God, the source of all you have, and he will bless you. Let every Sunday be a ‘back to church Sunday.’ If this simple rule is re-established in individuals and homes the spiritual fruit will be a harvest of righteousness.