As we emerge from the pandemic in our country and the Sunday mass obligation is reinstated, it’s worth reminding ourselves why going to Mass on Sunday is important and why God (through the Ten Commandments) and the Church (through her teachings) have Mass described as an obligation. Certainly ongoing health issues and extenuating circumstances (not sports games!) lift the obligation, but Sunday is a big deal…here’s a few reasons why.
Sunday is a day of new creation
Sunday is a big deal because it is the day we celebrate the Resurrection. When Jesus rose from the dead on the first Easter Sunday, the Church teaches us that it was the “eighth day of creation.” If Jesus has died and risen, so too will all those who believe in Him rise with Him. This is the belief that motivates all of our actions, the lens through which we view our lives in this world. Going to Mass on Sunday is important because it is the day that defines who we are as a people (why we profess the faith) and reminds us that we have a mission in this world, but a home in the next.
Sunday is a day of “true” rest
Sunday is a big deal because it is a day of rest…but not necessarily in the way you might think. God invites us to rest from our daily toil in order to enter into the true rest that is only found in relationship with him. In his book “The Way of the Disciple” Erasmo Leiva Merikakis puts it this way:
True, Jesus “gives us rest.” But we must be clear that such “rest” is totally different from “resting up” in order to get back to the daily toils of life; different, too, from recreation or distraction or vacationing, all of which are ordered to getting back to the “serious” part of life. It seems to me that this “rest for our souls” is intended by Jesus to be a real and genuine state of life, the natural condition in which a child of God habitually exists, and not just a passing phase of recovery. It is a deep condition of soul that is quite compatible with all the ordinary exterior activities and efforts of human life. The one who truly becomes God’s child, like Jesus, enjoys such rest as the very element of existence in which he swims. This rest is not laziness or a restoration of energy in order to get back to serious work: it is an end in itself, a way of life rooted in the relationship to God as Father.
Sunday is a day of nourishment
Sunday is a big deal because it is the day that we are able to be physically and spiritually nourished by God. Anytime you go on a trip, you need to take provisions along. As we journey through this world to the promised land of heaven, God provides us with a tangible encounter with Himself in the Eucharist that nourishes us and sustains us. The Prayer over the Offerings for the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time says “O God, who in the offerings presented here provide for the twofold needs of human nature, nourishing us with food and renewing us with your Sacrament, grant, we pray, that the sustenance they provide may not fail us in body or in spirit.” During the pandemic we “subsisted” on spiritual Communion. However, Jesus promised to be with us until the end of time and desired to give us the Eucharist as our living bread come down from heaven.
Sunday is a day of communion/family
Sunday is a big day because your whole family is getting together. The word “church” comes from the German meaning “gathering.” People sometimes ask why they can’t just stay at home and watch Mass or why can’t they come during the week instead of being “bothered by all the extra people” on Sunday. The answer is because the other people count and are part of why you are there. God gathers us together as individuals and families and incorporates us into one body. When we come forward to receive the Eucharist, we not only receive, but enter into communion with God and with one another.
In the end, if we truly understood all the graces being poured out to us every time we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist, there would be no need to call it an obligation because we would see it for the amazing gift and opportunity that it is.