"That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus..." (Lk 24: 13). Let's take some time on this "first day of the week," this third Sunday of Easter, to reflect on the importance and necessity of going to mass every Sunday (if inclement weather or poor health do not impede us). Catholics are expected to attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Why so? What is so special about Sunday? Early Christians received wisdom on the centrality of this day of all days in the week as a day primarily devoted to sacred worship. It is the day of resurrection; it became a new "Sabbath- a day devoted exclusively to rest and worship of God.
One of the earliest writings of the Church on early Christian understanding and practice on Sunday, "the first day of the week," is found in today's Office of Reading (Divine Office, the official prayer of the Church), St. Justin Martyr's "First Apologia," in which he describes what Christians did on that day: they assemble, they share the Word of Sacred Scriptures, and they partake in the Holy Eucharist. Here are words from St. Justin's "First Apologia": "We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead."
Sunday is primarily Lord's Day! It is not sports day (though we can play sports with family), it is not party day( though we can celebrate a party with family and friends), it is not a day to sleep all morning and watch TV (though we can indeed rest more and recreate with family by watching movies or sports on TV together); it is above all, a day to be devoted primarily to the assembly of all baptized, to offer prayers to God as a family who share from One Cup and One Bread- the Holy Eucharist. On the old Jewish Sabbath, what did Jesus do? He often went to the temple to worship. As followers of Jesus, we should imitate his spirit by gathering together in person on the new Sabbath, Sunday, to glorify and praise God by participating in the liturgies of the Word and Eucharist.
Attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation maintains God's covenant with us and offers him praise and thanksgiving for saving us from sin and death. It is why every Sunday is a mini-Easter, a day of the joyful celebration of the Risen Christ. The Mass on Sunday is preeminently foreshadowing the eternal banquet in heaven that we all look forward to. Therefore, it would be best if you looked forward to every Mass, especially on Sundays, as a foretaste of heaven which is what our earthly journey is about. Never miss going to Mass on Sunday; imagine missing Mass as missing a taste of heaven on earth.
Congratulations to our children who received Holy Communion for the first time on Saturday. I taught them about the importance of attending Mass every Sunday. I told them it is the most excellent source of joy on earth: a meeting with the Real and Living Jesus. I pray they act on my instructions with the help of their parents and godparents. See you next Sunday! And, bring someone to Mass, if you can.
Love you all,
Fr. Bernard, OP