For Christians throughout much of the United States, the idea that stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues would be closed on Sundays seems like a quaint relic of a long-forgotten age. Yet as late as 1980, most businesses in and around my hometown in West Michigan were closed on Sunday, and many counties throughout the Midwest still restrict (or ban outright) liquor sales on the Sabbath. The rise of big-box stores (such as Wal-Mart) and chain restaurants had a lot to do with the expansion of commerce to seven days per week, but so did the increasing secularization of American society.
In Europe, though, secularization is much further advanced, and yet, in most European countries, most businesses are still closed on Sunday. Here in the United States, the closing of businesses on Sundays was enforced through "blue laws," which were primarily Protestant (especially Puritan) in origin, but in Europe, the Catholic Church has been the major force restricting commerce on Sunday.
Yet, the Los Angeles Times reports, "Austrian business groups have been pressuring the government to allow them to open shops on Sundays"--so much so that Pope Benedict XVI took special note of this development during his pilgrimage to Austria over the weekend. "Without the Lord, and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish," Pope Benedict declared, stressing the "encounter" with God in the Mass that keeps Sunday from becoming "wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up."
The problem, of course, is not so much shopping or even working on Sunday, but the fact that both activities distract us from our Sunday obligation. The bumper sticker may read, "I live to shop!" but man was made, not for shopping, but for worshiping his Creator.