In my junior year of high school, my water polo team competed in the state tournament. In order to play, I left the serene, idyllic streets of south St. Louis County to venture to the strange and wild land of St. Charles — all the way to the Rec-Plex in St. Peters. As any St. Louis native knows, it takes a lot to get us not only to drive more than 20 minutes but also to go across “the river.” But the trip was worth it. Once there I experienced the riveting adrenaline of competition, the nail-biting position of a bench-warmer, and, at last, the final victory.
As my team progressed in the playoffs, I had no doubt that my presence there mattered, even with my remarkably modest contributions to the games. Together we were pursuing the same goal as a team. The same is true with your presence at Mass.
What is the goal we pursue? In “Pastores Dabo Vobis,” St. John Paul II wrote that we pursue first the mystery of encountering the love of God in the Eucharist, leading to our communion with one another, which in turn inspires our mission to proclaim the Gospel in the world. Watching “the movie of the Mass” is not the same as participating in the mystery itself, and livestream removes one from experiencing the communion of the team.
But what about those who cannot be there due to sickness or old age? There is a world of difference between an injured player in the hospital watching the game, whose very absence serves to inspire his teammates, and a player who skips the game saying, “I have a different priority for my time and can watch it later.”
The Church requires weekly attendance at Mass because God requires it of His people. God commanded us to “keep holy the Sabbath,” and we, like the early disciples, “recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread” (Exodus 20:8, Luke 24:35).
Livestreaming the Mass offers a beautiful source of ongoing communion with homebound parishioners otherwise disconnected from the parish liturgy. But for those sons and daughters of God who are able, come! God desires you to encounter the mystery of His love every week, share your presence with your brothers and sisters in Christ, and receive the nourishment to live well the mission He has given you in the world.
That is why the livestream does not count as a substitute for those who are not substantially impeded from going to Mass.
Father Charlie Archer is associate pastor of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood.