Honoring the Sabbath in the Pandemic
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
A little over two years ago I wrote about keeping the Third Commandment and how we’re called to honor the Lord’s Day. At that time, I spoke of the obligation to attend Sunday Mass and how this is a central part of our fulfilling the Commandment. 
I also noted, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, that there can be exceptions to that obligation for grave reasons. Typically, these are individual in nature due to extenuating circumstances.
For the last several weeks we’ve all been living in the extenuating circumstances of a pandemic which have made these exceptions universal. 
It goes without saying how challenging these circumstances have made our lives. So many things have been disrupted. And, as we know, that includes our lives of faith. 
While we’re not currently able to attend Mass and fulfill that part of our responsibility in what was previously considered the normal way, we are still bound to keep the Third Commandment in its entirety. 
A very common question around the middle of March was, “What must I do to be sure that I’m still fulfilling my Sunday duties?” The answer to that could include any number of things, from watching Mass via the media, to looking at the readings for Mass, to making a spiritual communion, etc. 
And even though these answers were readily available at that time, and ever since, the experience of COVID-19 raises other questions as well regarding our keeping the Third Commandment. Many of these questions are personal in nature — ones we should be asking ourselves. Namely, how well have we been keeping the Lord’s Day holy when we’re exempted from having to go to Mass? 
Have we been making an effort to set that day apart from other days in the week (especially when each day can seem strikingly similar to the one before)? Have we been doing just the bare minimum? Or have we fallen away from doing much of anything faith-wise on Sundays? 
As we might have experienced ourselves, it is so easy to put off our time with the Lord on Sunday when we don’t have a particular time scheduled for it. If we can watch Mass or read the readings whenever it’s convenient for us, then it can be very, very tempting to put it off and spend our time doing other things instead. 
And even if we still end up taking the time to fulfill that part of our responsibility, are we allowing other things to take greater precedence now than perhaps they ever did before? 
Our experience of this pandemic has afforded us a great opportunity to reflect on what is in our hearts as we approach Sunday worship (or lack thereof). It has hopefully caused us to take personal responsibility. 
As much as we might miss the previous Sunday routine we’ve had for all of (or a good part of) our lives, we now have a unique opportunity to ask ourselves if Sunday worship was about the routine itself, or about my personal commitment to the Lord?
All of these things are good things to ask ourselves. A necessary part of our growth in holiness and forming our consciences is time to reflect on the choices we’re making to see not only if we’re making good choices, but also to see if there can be ways in which we can make better choices. 
If we’re fulfilling our responsibilities but are doing so with the “bare minimum” mentality, how can we work on making our fulfillment of the Third Commandment more of a priority? And if we find ourselves slipping away from any meaningful prayer and worship routine on Sunday, especially if we had one previous to the pandemic, then how might we begin to reclaim one now? 
Given the extra time that many people currently have, perhaps a little bit of it could be dedicated to asking ourselves these questions, and others like them.