On Sunday, we gather as the Body of Christ to celebrate the Lord’s Day – the day of Christ’s Resurrection. This celebration is not a solitary, private event. Instead, we come together as the People of God to worship with one heart and one voice in participating at Mass. Our Catechism teaches “participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and the Church (CCC 2182).”
Some people like to think celebrating the Lord’s Day together is not necessary because they can pray at home just as well. This has been an issue in the Church for almost 2000 years. In the 4th Century, St John Chrysostom wrote: “You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priests (CCC 2179.) Private prayer, though essential to spiritual life, can never replace the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy and receiving Holy Communion. Even in areas without priests that cannot celebrate Mass every Sunday, the Liturgy for a Sunday Celebration without a Priest allows people to gather and keep the Lord’s Day Holy.
When people are absent from Mass, they are missed. No one should be absent without a serious reason because celebrating the Lord’s Day should be the first thing on the Sunday schedule, not the last. We should arrive on time, prepared in mind and heart to fully participate in the Mass. Those who cannot attend because of illness, age, the need to care for infants or the sick, or other serious reasons deserve our prayers and special attention.
Participating at Mass does not complete our celebration of the Lord’s Day. Our Catechism tells us we must also refrain from activities which “disturb the joy proper to the day of the Lord or necessary for relaxation of mind and body (Compendium 453.) Unfortunately, in our 24/7 world, tethered to our jobs by laptops and smart phones, or where public safety and businesses run normally no matter what day of the week, it’s important to take some time of rest to recognize that all time belongs to God, and people are more important than things. Resting on Sundays does not mean we are inactive. It means we rest from the burdens of daily life by doing things to nurture our body and soul like spending time with family and friends, caring for the sick and needy, enjoying a hobby, or just turning off gadgets and enjoying the silence.
As we take time each week to celebrate the Lord’s Day, may we remind ourselves that we are made in the image and likeness of God who “rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken (Genesis 2:2).
Adapted from “Celebrating the Lord’s Day”, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB.org