Welcome to the finale of our series on liturgical life. To everyone just joining us, we’re so glad you made it – and don’t worry, there’s no need to play catch up. This post stands all on it’s own. But I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to take a peek at what we’ve all been up to these past couple weeks: (1), (2), (3), (4).
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”
– Genesis 2:2
In college, I worked as the resident gentile for our campus Hillel Center (the Jewish equivalent of a Newman Center). As the only non-Jew on staff, I attended Friday night Shabbat services, helped serve the food at dinner, washed dishes, turned off lights and locked up afterward – in general, any task that was prohibited for my Jewish co-workers on the Sabbath.
It may seem weird, since I was the one person doing all the work, but I loved Friday nights. I had never experienced anything like Sabbath at the Hillel. Sure, there were a lot of things my Jewish friends and colleagues couldn’t do on Friday nights, but by saying no to the busyness and work of university life for just one day, they gained something infinitely better: peace, connection, and a whole lot of joy!
We live in a world of YES.
A world of endless choice and boundless opportunity. Technology has given us the power to defy darkness, distance, and even sometimes death. We are, with very few exceptions, limitless. But there is a flip-side to this shiny coin of possibility: exhaustion, overwhelm, and a sense of malaise. Where anything is possible, can anything be special?
Saint Paul said it best so many centuries ago.
“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’–but not everything is constructive.”
– 1 Corinthians 10:23
Couldn’t we all use a little Sabbath in our busy week? A little rest in the middle of our restless work?
What could be more beneficial in our harried lives than peace? What could be more constructive than connection? And aren’t we each of us craving a little more joy, just a little more Jesus for the journey?
I know I am.
So for the final installment in our series on liturgical living, I want to let you in on my favorite little secret, it’s the greatest gift I have to give: I’m giving you permission to say no.
No, to one more day of hurry.
No, to the extra errands and chores.
No, to the never-ending rat race of soccer games and powerpoints and homework.
No, to the deadlines and everything that threatens to swallow up the space we are craving – the rest to truly notice it is good.
This is pure gift, no strings attached. No rules, and especially no guilt. We are living in the freedom of the living God who came to give it all to us abundantly and joy most of all. He is our giver of good gifts, our lover who woos us to the leeside of the wall the world calls Boundary and we, with 20/20 vision, name Sanctuary. We can do anything through Christ…and yet what he offers us is a break. He invites us to breathe. He gifts us his peace. But the choice remains always, always yours – each and every week.
It’s okay if you feel unprepared. Don’t worry if the answer is not yet, not this time. Not this week. There will be other Sundays, and the offer stands. When you’re ready, He’ll be waiting.
With that in mind, here are 7 ways to open your hands (in your time) and receive the gift of a set-apart Sunday.
1. Start your Sunday on Saturday night.
The Jewish Sabbath extends from sundown Friday to sundown on Saturday. In our family, we’ve tried to embrace this rhythm (one Jesus would have practiced). At sundown on Saturday, we gather at the table to share a special meal. If you have older kids, it will probably take some fancy finagling to clear the calendar, but the benefits are more than worth it. Your evening can be spent playing games, singing anything from silly songs to hymns, or whatever you do to unwind. The goal is connection. Detach from the week so we can plug into each other. Look around at the faces of your loves, and you’ll know something of how God felt that day in Eden, thinking, it is good, they are good, this is very good.
2. Don’t let Mass sneak up on you.
We’ve all been there: three minutes before Mass, with half the family in the car, half of them in tears, a half dozen mismatched shoes, and a stray coat. Let go of the guilt (because mommy guilt is the absolute worst), and reach for the gift. A few minutes of forethought on Saturday can keep you from being that family on Sunday.
Lay out church clothes (including socks, shoes, underwear, and outerwear) the night before. Mend anything that needs mending. Pack the diaper bag and put it in the car. Plan a simple breakfast (cereal, toast, donuts?) you can toss at the kids in the *unlikely* event you accidentally hit the snooze button. Set it out once everyone is in bed. Read through the Mass readings (or even just the gospel) with your kids, and take time to answer any questions. They’ll be able to pay better attention to Father’s homily if they have some clue what he’s talking about. Now, take a deep breath. You can do this, mama.
3. Commit to spend nothing.
It seems strange in our consumer society, but up through the better part of the last century, commerce was a 6-day affair. There’s nothing inherently wrong with spending money on a Sunday, of course. (Freedom in Christ!) Maybe you traditionally go out for donuts or lunch after church. But what if instead you bought the donuts the night before to enjoy at home, or prepped lunch in the crockpot on Saturday night? What memories could you make by not spending, what new skills would you learn? Prayerfully decide what to do with the money you saved by choosing not to spend: a family trip or outing, a donation to a favorite nonprofit or ministry. Imagine how your sacrifice could impact the world. Give it a try, and see if it isn’t a balm and a boost to your soul.
4. Celebrate good times, come on!
Christians don’t have to go to church. We get to go to church! Catholics call it celebrating Mass. Do we really, really get that? We get to celebrate resurrection every. single. Sunday. I mean, wow, right? Jesus is inviting us to his house, around his table, to share himself as love poured out. The body of Christ is not a weekly obligation. It’s the gift of God-made-man-made-bread to you and me and all of us. Every. single. Sunday. Wow.
5. Put off until tomorrow anything you don’t absolutely have to do today.
The Pharisees were big on passing judgment, and the last thing any of us needs is more of that. So, here’s the thing, I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do, because I think deep down you’re the one who best knows the answer to that. What I will do is invite you to take some time to question what’s become unhelpful habit. Do me a favor, will you? Do it ahead if you can, and if you can’t? Give yourself permission to put it off until tomorrow. Whatever “it” is. That thing that feels like burden when your soul is craving blessing. Put it down, let it go, just for a day. You know what I’m talking about.
6. Be open to the needs of others.
Remember that one where Jesus got flack for feeding his friends? Or that time he got that smack-down in the synagogue for healing a man’s hand? I’m not saying we need to go looking for a wound to staunch or stomachs to fill, but if we’re really looking, isn’t there always a need to meet right where we are? A lonely hand to shake. A helping hand to lend. If we’ve really cut back on working for ourselves, if we’re really noticing what’s good, then I’ve a sneaking suspicion we’ll find the needs without a search and realize we’ve made the space to help.
7. Indulge in your own personal brand of fun.
If yours is a sports-loving family, then curl up on the couch together to watch the game. If hiking is more your thing, then hit the trails. If you’re readers like us, you might enjoy snuggling up beside the fire with a pot of something sweet and hot and a deliciously long read-aloud. If you love it, do it. Don’t judge; indulge. This is your day to take it sweet and slow and savor every drop.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Living the Liturgical life. May you glean only blessing and take the rest with a hearty helping of salt.
continue the conversation: How do you make Sundays special? Is there something you wish you were doing differently? Give yourself the grace.
sweetness + grace,