We Give Thanks (Eucharistia)
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,
As the bishops of Minnesota are calling us to return to our regular in-person Sunday Mass obligation, I want to dwell for a moment on this multi-layered Precept of the Church. We are obliged to give God His due honor, worship, and attention. The way He has instructed us to live this out is to gather on the day that commemorates Jesus’ resurrection, which we call Sunday or “the Lord’s Day.” At this special gathering we re-present the Sacrifice of Jesus at the Last Supper in the Eucharistic feast. We nurture our relationship with God by spending our best time with Him in person.
At the Holy Mass, we give thanks (Eucharistia) to God for the gift of His Son. We listen to His Word in the Sacred Scriptures, we attend to a teaching from His minister about what we have heard, and we profess our faith (the Creed) and pray for the needs of our community (petitions). Those of us who are blessed to be in full communion with the Church and in right relation with God at that time (free from grave sin and properly disposed in mind and body) then receive Jesus in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. We receive Him at His command, according to His Law, and in the manner He gave us to perpetuate His Presence among us. We do as Jesus Himself commands us: “Do this in memory of me.” Then we take the graces we have received in the Blessed Sacrament with us as we go back out into the world.
This is our obligation as individual Christians and as a community of believers; worship is meant to be a communal act. The very word that we translate as “church” (Ecclesia) means “to gather.” We gather to celebrate together as a sign of our unity in Christ (one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church), to support each other and hold one another accountable, and to share our individual gifts (musical talent, public speaking, etc.) for the enrichment of the worship of the whole community. Most of all, we gather to give witness to the world that we are one Body of Christ, still present and actively sanctifying this world to prepare souls for union with God in heaven.
God has the right to all of our time, for every moment of our lives is a gift from God. God asks us for a few hours of our time each Sunday and Holy Day. This is the bare minimum required of us by our Baptismal promises; so why do we so often resist giving God this little bit of our time and attention? Whether we acknowledge it or not, we need the Mass. We are the ones who receive the Bread from heaven. We are the ones who benefit from keeping this obligation.
Bearing all of this in mind, we can understand why the Church, in Her wisdom, commands us to honor this sacred duty under penalty of mortal sin. If we knowingly and willingly choose to reject this obligation, we cut ourselves off from the source of God’s graces. When we turn our backs on Him, we are the ones who suffer. We also harm the Church by depriving Her of our gifts, causing scandal to those who see our disobedience, and depriving our children of access to the Sacraments by failing to bring them to the Eucharist. We take our obligation seriously because the effects of our obedience or disobedience affect our eternal souls, and those of our children and our community. Unless we have a sufficiently grave reason to be away from Mass (if we are too sick to attend, if we are caring for someone who is sick, or if we are responding to an emergency or vital need of others), we will be held accountable for our failure to live up to the terms of our Covenant with God. This is right and just; God deserves our worship, we benefit from giving Him our worship, and we receive in return the Sacramental graces of Jesus’ Body and Blood.
This is the most important thing we do here on earth! It is our greatest honor, our greatest responsibility, and our greatest joy! May we give God His due honor and praise in the great Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. May our celebrations be the full effort of grateful and contrite hearts, and may the Holy Mass truly become the source and summit of our lives as Christians.
Peace in Christ,
Father Matthew Kuhn