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Faith and the Marketplace--God Rested On The Seventh Day.  Do You?

by Fr. John Rausch

   When Trutt Cathy started his diner in 1946, he opened 24 hours a day, six days a week. On Sundays he closed. Based on biblical reasons Cathy observed Sunday as a day of rest and a day for the family.

              When Chick-Fil-A, his franchise chicken business, expanded to Southern malls in 1967, they also closed on Sundays. Today his $900 million business with 842 franchised stores in 36 states employing over 40,000 yields its Sunday trade to other fast food chains. Chick-Fil-A does its business in six days. Many patrons maintain their allegiance to the business partly because of the Sunday closure. Yet, the policy remains especially popular with the franchise operators and their employees for a day of rest.

But, Chick-Fil-A is bucking a trend. The demands of the economic system and a change in American values are squeezing opportunities for leisure from workers and families. Expanded hours and demand for workers offer important benefits to the economy and convenience to shoppers, but at a price. Estimates range from 8 to 17 percent of workers face undesired overtime. Americans now work 163 hours more per year--an extra month more than 25 years ago. They spend 10 to 12 fewer hours per week with their children. The allure of pricey leisure activities--such as dining out frequently, joining health clubs, buying entertainment equipment and taking exotic vacations--drive some to work harder and longer. Others making low wages must balance two jobs with the demands of family life. The result: loss of free time, missed opportunities with the family and fewer possibilities for personal renewal.

The teaching on Sabbath rest represents a neglected insight about economics, ecology and the worship of God. The Third Commandment offers a path for meeting the material needs of people while respecting God and creation. In the biblical story after creating the world in six days, God "rested on the seventh day" ( Gen. 2:2). Later God used the Sabbath to remind the People of Israel that He liberated them from slavery (Deut. 5:15.) "The Sabbath is for the Lord, holy and set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on behalf of Israel," reads the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Sabbath, observed as Sunday to symbolize the Resurrection as the New Creation, offers a healthy rhythm that balances work and commerce with prayer, rest and play.

First, Sabbath keeping addresses the treatment of workers. Workers can never become simply an input to production. The Sabbath calls for a just wage so no one need work two jobs without leisure. It also rescues the approximately four million workers wanting full time employment from the trap of part-time jobs with few benefits. The Sabbath stands as a symbol of freedom from slavery, whether that be political or economic.

Secondly, Sabbath calls for a renewed appreciation of creation as a gift from God. People who enjoy hikes, plant gardens and marvel at the world's beauty will find creative resolutions to the false dichotomy of "jobs versus the environment." Simpler life styles will save resources, lessen pollution and decrease waste caused by producing frivolous things.

Finally, the Eucharistic celebration on the Lord's Day motivates believers to visit the sick, help the poor and care for the elderly. The Day of the Lord becomes a day for the family.

Western Europeans spend one-third the time shopping as Americans. Workers enjoy four to six-week vacations, and many work 35-hour weeks. The Sabbath promises to change society's emphasis on the bottom line for a better quality of life.

Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the June 1999 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue. Fr. John Rausch, a Glenmary priest, teaches at the Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center, Berea, Ky. His column appears monthly in many Catholic journals and in ours beginning this month, courtesy of the Friends of the Good News. When you purchase books, videos, etc. from Amazon.com this site, we receive a referral fee from them that support the work of the Friends of the Good News.