Although there are a few other strong contenders, the Third Commandment may be more misunderstood and simply ignored of all the Ten in our fast-paced, non-stop modern world. For most of us, "Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy" (Exodus 20:8) means at most a 55-minute stop for Sunday Mass, then we're off to a rush of activities not limited to shopping, going to work, sports events, and just about anything besides a holy rest.
Perhaps the Gospel story of our Lord admonishing the Pharisees for their Sabbath legalism leads some of us to think that he was doing away with the Third Commandment. Not so, rather he was teaching the spirit of the law, not abolition of the law.
The late, great Pope John Paul II wrote a masterful apostolic letter on this subject in 1998 titled Dies Domini "On Keeping the Lord's Day Holy". He lamented how for many, Sunday has lost its God-given meaning.
Unfortunately, when Sunday loses its fundamental meaning and becomes merely part of a "weekend", it can happen that people stay locked within a horizon so limited that they can no longer see "the heavens". Hence, though ready to celebrate, they are really incapable of doing so.
Seven years later, in 2005, the newly installed Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, Thomas J. Olmstead, commanded his flock to
"Keep the Lord's day holy. . . refrain from all shopping and enjoy Sunday as a day of rest, a day of leisure, a day for family, a day for celebrating the Eucharist."
The Arizona Republic newspaper quoted the bishop's powerful words in an excellent article titled simply "Sundays no longer day of rest."
Another outstanding article in the Minneapolis – St. Paul diocesan newspaper reports on courageous business owners who dare to swim against the societal trend and close on Sunday.
Perhaps the best-known national corporation that closes on Sunday is Chick-Fil-A , whose founder Truett Cathy
wanted to ensure that every Chick-fil-A employee and restaurant operator had an opportunity to worship, spend time with family and friends or just plain rest from the work week. Made sense then, still makes sense now.
As our Lord said, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27). He gave us this commandment, like all the others, for our own good. When we ignore it, we voluntarily hand ourselves over to the slavery of a life without rest or reflection. Is a Sunday trip to the mall really worth that price?