Many of you have heard the news that Bishop Malesic has rescinded the dispensation from attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. The moral obligation to attend Mass begins once again on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of the Lord (Corpus Christi), which falls on this weekend. I cannot think of a better day to welcome back everyone for Mass.
Bishop Malesic noted in his decree certain individuals are not bound to return at this time. “As has always been the case, if individuals are homebound, are frail due to illness or age or, in their well-formed consciences believe that going into public places – including Sunday worship of Mass – would place their health or the health of their loved ones in serious jeopardy, they are not bound by the obligation to attend Mass.”
One question that might arise is what Bishop Malesic means by a moral obligation to attend Mass. First, let me say that Mass is not just a duty, it is a joyful privilege. The celebration of the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. The celebration of Mass is central to everything we do as Catholics. There is nothing more important that we can do each week than celebrate Sunday Mass. It is the most perfect form of prayer, praise, and thanksgiving that we can enter into. It is also the most intimate encounter we can have with Jesus by receiving His body, blood, soul, and divinity. If we simply approach Mass as a duty, we will do the minimum. We will simply punch our holy card. If we approach Mass as a privilege and an act of love, we will give our all and receive all the Lord desires to give us.
Back to the question of moral obligation. The third commandment is to keep holy the Lord’s day. For Catholics, this means above all to come for the celebration of Sunday Mass. Breaking this commandment without good cause is a significant turning away from God and is therefore mortal sin. Mortal sin separates us from God and if we die in the state of mortal sin we separate ourselves from God for all eternity. This may seem harsh in the context of missing a Sunday Mass. However, we must remember that every good thing we receive comes from God. God gives us all that we have including time. God gives us 168 hours every week. Is it too much to ask to give one hour of that time back to God?
Consciously choosing to stay away from Mass on Sundays or holy days of obligation is also a decision to turn our backs on Christ and on the process of our redemption. We are refusing to carry out Christ’s command to “do this” in memory of me.
Sunday Mass is so important to preparing us spiritually for the week ahead. We have to remember that Sunday marks the beginning of our week, not the end. In a sense, the Sunday Mass prepares us for the days ahead and sets the spiritual tone for the week, filling us with God’s word and grace so we might glorify the Lord with our lives. By starting our week with the Sunday liturgy, we publicly profess with our whole being that we are sons and daughters of God and members of His Church. We are God’s first. Without him we are nothing.
That is why Jesus can say, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37). Furthermore, the first and greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:38). Our unique love for God (and His for us!) is specially consummated when we receive the Eucharist at Mass.
Peace of Christ,