“Behold how good and how sweet it is for brethren dwell together.” (Psalm 132)
Last month we considered the principal purpose of Sundays; namely, to worship almighty God and to enjoy a foretaste of the joyful rest He has prepared for those who “adore Him in spirit and in truth.” Ultimately, it is a day consecrated to the love and service of our Father in heaven, together with and through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
However, we know that St. John the Apostle wrote “how can a man love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he does see?” Sundays are therefore intended to have an additional purpose: to nourish charity amongst the members of the Church, and especially among the members of a family. The adoration and service we render to God is only as true as the charity which we have nourished for our neighbor.
As a result, Sunday is meant to be an opportunity to take a step back from our normal occupations in order to practice the virtue of charity, whereby we will effectively to promote the good of our neighbor. In other words, the Church intends that Sundays serve as a prelude the friendship that will mark their relations with each other in our heavenly home. Dante describes this friendship in the Purgatorio of his Divine Comedy:
the greater the proportion of our love,
the more eternal goodness we receive;
the more souls there above who are in love
the more there are worth loving; love grows more,
each soul a mirror mutually mirroring.
In this life this mutual love - while essentially the same as what exists in heaven - is often difficult since it entails a profound death to ourselves at every moment. We must continually ignore how we feel when we speak to others, what we want in how we treat them. This is truly what St. Paul means when he says, “charity is patient, is kind, seeks not its own.” Parents must consciously train their children to cultivate this self-forgetfulness, especially by giving them particular opportunities to serve the family (and their siblings) on this day.
However, let us not forget that a family is not necessarily limited to mere blood relatives. It is by extension whole spiritual family we know as the parish. Andre Charlier, writing to the parents of the boys in his school, noted “if you are able to consider the school where you send your boys as a spiritual family of which you form a part, we will have taken a great step forward towards rebuilding our nation.” If he could say that about a boarding school, how much more a parish where we live and worship with our fellow Christians? Sundays should serve therefore as an occasion to strengthen the bonds with our fellow parishioners, whether at Mass and other divine services or through healthy recreations with them.
Thus, we begin to realize that Sunday is not meant to be filled with worldly amusements or laziness. These are both rooted in a deep selfishness that undercuts the very purpose of the day. Even in true rest, there is self-denial and discipline.
We shall consider more in detail how to nourish this charity in a later practical message, but in the meantime, we can reflect on the conclusion of Psalm 132. When brethren live together in a spirit of charity, they enjoy the blessings of God and true life:
"For there the Lord hath commandeth blessing, and life for evermore."
In Christo Sacerdote et Maria,
Fr. Jonathan Loop
- Fr. Jonathon Loop is the Principal of Immaculate Conception Academy, Post Falls, ID