This is Sunday is the moment of truth. Do we trust and obey the Church, or do we listen to fear, or perhaps it is only the message of enjoying the comfort of home on a Sunday morning? To be clear, Bishop Burbidge and his fellow bishops of Washington, Richmond, Baltimore, Wheeling-Charleston and Wilmington have declared today the day to get back to normal church going practices. The following exceptions are noted: “We welcome and encourage the Faithful to return to full in-person participation of the Sunday Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic faith (cf. Code of Canon Law, canon 1246-1247 and Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2180). This obligation does not apply to those who are ill; those who have reason to believe that they were recently exposed to the coronavirus, another serious or contagious illness; those who are confined to their home, a hospital, or nursing facility; or those with serious underlying health conditions. One should consult his or her local pastor if questions arise about the obligation to attend Mass (Canon 1245 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2181).”
Is it really a sin not to come to Mass if you don’t fall into the stated categories? Yes. Who says? God. He revealed to Moses the need to keep His day holy, Commandment #3. And so, the Jews observe the Sabbath, the last day of the week, Saturday, as their day to do this. “Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work … for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore, the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Ex 20)
Tradition and scholars of Mosaic Law gave more details of how to keep the sabbath rest. Our Lord Himself observed these as He was known to gather and teach at synagogues on the Sabbath. Yet as we know, He taught that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. He famously took issue with scrupulous adherence to the man-made letter of the Law and not the spirit. “Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?” (Lk 14:5)
The Apostles, the close confidants of the Lord of the Sabbath, establish a Church that doesn’t keep the Sabbath on Saturday. Why not?
The Didache, a document that most scholars believe was written in the first century, perhaps before St. John’s Gospel, speaks of the obligation, “On the Lord’s own day, when you gather together after you break bread and give thanks (Or: celebrate the Eucharist), after you have confessed your unlawful deeds so that your sacrifice may be made pure.” (Loeb Classical Library, The Apostolic Fathers, Vol 1, p. 439) Of course, the author doesn’t define what day of the week is the “Lord’s Day”, but yet less than one hundred years later (AD 165), St. Justin Martyr is explaining to those in Rome, “On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members…. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray. On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen.” The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.” (Liturgy of the Hours, III Sunday of Easter, Office of Readings)
I hope to see everybody soon, or at least, hear if I need to make a home visit.
Calling all rising fourth grade boys and older at SSM parish. Let’s meet after 10:00am Mass this Sunday, June 27, and talk about serving Mass. I’d love to train you for an hour, but if you can’t stay, leave your name and number and we’ll find time later on. If you’ve made First Holy Communion and have an older brother who serves, we can find a place for you too.