I love the excitement and challenge of a good sports game, and I was involved in several sports in middle school and high school in Casper (tennis, cross-country running, cross-country skiing, among others), but I’m going to throw a penalty flag here and call “encroachment” on sports and so many other activities that are presently taking away from the No. 1 priority of Christian families — going to church on Sunday.
More and more these days, sporting events for kids are being scheduled on Sundays, leaving no time for families to do the two most important things to keep them happy and united: 1) Going to church and 2) spending time together. The common theme of the wisdom tradition of the Old Testament could be summed up thus: Revere God and follow His commandments, and everything else in your life will fall into proper, harmonious order.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” says Psalm 111. Fear of the Lord being not so much the dread of an angry God but rather an awe-filled reverence and respect for an omnipotent, benevolent God. This “fear” leads us to say, “You’re God. I’m not. I’ll worship you. I’ll love you. I’ll trust in you.”
“Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments! His descendants will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed.” (Psalm 112).
“My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures — then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God… Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; prudence will watch over you; and understanding will guard you” (Proverbs 2:1-5, 9-11).
There’s an order and harmony that God placed in creation, which includes a weekly day of rest. Choosing to conform our lives to that harmony makes us happier, healthier, holier human beings. Even non-church-goers need a day of rest — simply on the level of human nature. It’s no surprise that anxiety disorders are rampant in our society.
Of course, when it comes to compromising church and family time on Sundays, we can’t put the blame entirely on sports and recreational activities, since everyone is ultimately free to choose not to participate in these. Nonetheless, a concerted, communal effort to avoid having other gods besides God and to “keep holy the Sabbath day” would put less pressure on families to have to choose one over the other.
Societal values influence individual decisions to an incredible degree, and if our local community valued Sunday religious participation, more people would choose to go to church and thereby receive the blessings God is so desirous to give them. Worship is the reason there is no school or work on Sunday in the first place.
My time in Sheridan is coming to an end in July. I’ve been transferred to the Catholic church in Riverton. Moving every couple of years is a normal part of the life of a young priest. But I love and care about the folks in Sheridan, and, thus, I’ll propose this challenge for the future: Let’s reclaim Sunday as a day that is sacred. If enough people refused to allow sports, etc. to encroach on what Sundays are meant for, no matter the consequences, positive change could certainly be made.
I’d be willing to bet that such a courageous paradigm shift would strengthen our families and, thus, strengthen our community to be healthier and happier. Putting God first in our lives brings blessings. I didn’t make that up. It’s His wisdom.
Fr. Robert Rodgers is an associate pastor with Holy Name Catholic Church.