For Catholics it is traditionally known as the Third Commandment from God (in some churches it is listed as the fourth). It is the command from God to “Keep Holy the Sabbath“, to formally set aside one period of time each week to rest from our work, and to celebrate and thank Him for all that He has given us.
For some, the sabbath observance comes on Fridays or Saturdays. For Catholics and many others, this day comes on Sunday.
For police officers, the chance to attend Mass (or to observe Shabbat in Judaism) should be something that we look forward to each week. It is our opportunity to be rested and refreshed in and with the Lord.
The work schedule of a police officer, who does the necessary work of protecting and serving the public, is such that we cannot frequently take a Saturday or Sunday completely away from the workplace.
Catholics are heartened by the fact that almost all churches now offer both a Saturday evening “Vigil Mass” along with the usual Sunday services. Thus, no Catholic officer should use work as an excuse to miss the weekly Mass obligation.
In Exodus chapter 20, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai. The people waited down below, since God had previously warned them to “set limits around the mountain to make it sacred”.
As Moses stood in the presence of God Himself, the people trembled at the experience. The mountain was enveloped by thunder and lightening. The mountain itself appeared to be smoking, and a great trumpet blast was heard from the heavens. Here in the presence of the Almighty, Moses was given the basic laws of God by which man was to live.
Among these Ten Commandments or laws was this:
“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then by either you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”
Genesis chapter two ends with the finale of the creation story:
“Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work He had been doing, He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work He had done in creation.”
The Catholic Catechism states one’s obligation to follow these Commandments in this way:
“Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human hearth.”
Later, specifically addressing the Third Commandment as rest on the sabbath, the Catechism states: “God’s action is the model for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”
The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.
Jesus Christ performed many actions on, and was regularly charged by the authorities of His day with violating,the sabbath day. He then gave the law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”
Christ declared the sabbath for doing good, not harm. For saving life, rather than killing, as the Catechism explains it. Thus the work of police officers and other safety officials is fully appropriate on the sabbath.
This, however, does not release officers from making their own public sabbath observance. Police officers, fire fighters, politicians, and other public workers should, along with performing their necessary services to the people, set aside time each week to formally recognize God, and to celebrate His many gifts to their lives by joining their worship community at church or synagogue.
If you have not followed this Commandment to it’s fullest in the past, there is no time like the present. Do your work. Enjoy your football games. But set aside time for the truly important, for God.