By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK
On a recent Palm Sunday, the drone of a nearby lawnmower cut through the sounds of the faithful gathered to prepare for the pre-Mass procession. A stone hitting a blade silenced the mower, and the priest on hand for the Palm Sunday celebration approached the man who had been attempting to trim his lawn, asking if he thought the incident of the stone may have been directed by the hand of God.
Humor aside, the conversation continued when the priest recollected he had not seen the individual at the previous evening’s vigil Mass which he was accustomed to attending and confirmed the man’s absence. The beautification of the lawn was a prelude to a Sunday crowded with family events to the exclusion of Sunday Mass, as the man explained, after which he said, “It’s a good thing I go to Mass during the week.”
Attendance at Mass, and with it obedience to divine law, had been crowded out of the Sunday schedule and with it public witness to God. Added to that was the evident confusion on the man’s part that Mass on another day of the week can substitute for the Lord’s Day or the Saturday vigil.
What does this encounter teach us? That use of the Saturday vigil for reasons not of necessity but out of habitual convenience brings with it a loss of a sense of the preeminence of the Lord’s Day from the lives of many faithful. Some Catholics now go to Mass every day of the week but Sunday. The man in conversation with the priest after discovered cutting his grass on a Sunday later related that he had fallen into a habit of attending on Saturday evenings not out of necessity but so that he could “sleep in on Sundays.”
Christians don’t slumber by choice on Sundays, except if they have to work nights. Every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection and so it is a discovery of the empty tomb as on that first Sunday when the disciples did so for the first time.
I suspect that many Catholics have long since consented to putting convenience ahead of the fullest celebration of Sundays, which includes rest and family time as well as attendance at Mass. The “weekend culture,” as Pope Emeritus Benedict warned, has had a leveling effect on Christian experience of time, so that Sunday is no longer obviously distinguished from the other days of the week as commanded by God. For many the opportunity to imitate God by rest and worship with time for family relationships has now in effect been discarded as a nuisance rather than a privilege.
Pope Francis recently lamented that the economy which places money at the center ends up discarding human beings as waste, whether through abortion, a low birthrate, or abandonment of the elderly, to name just a few symptoms. I suggest that when money is placed at the center of the economy of the family that other things more important are discarded as well, among them the centrality of God.
The Pope has frequently preached against idols, money among them. Pursuing income as an end in itself without regard for the law of God when one has a choice as to when they will work is an obvious sin. There are always those who must work on Sunday because of the nature of their jobs such as in health care. It is not about these that we speak and typically Mass is offered by chaplains in such places as hospitals, in prisons, and in the military.
We inconvenience ourselves often for the sake of love. Our children will not believe us when we say we love God if they never see us inconvenience ourselves for love of Him. There are always other things we can do with the time we spend at Mass on Sundays and work is one of them. Our God has demanded that we not work during that time, but instead spend that time worshipping Him. Avoiding use of the Saturday vigil as a matter of habitual convenience is part of the effort to keep the Commandments.
Our historic faith in the fact of the Resurrection is based upon the apostles’ discovery of the empty tomb on a Sunday morning. Participating each week in this event through the Celebration of the Eucharist and the sacramental Presence of the risen Christ is the basis of our own hope of one day sharing finally and fully in the life of God made possible by that Resurrection.
The priest finally had that conversation about Sunday and obligatory Mass with the senior Catholic parishioner. Please pray for him and all who have fallen into a loss of the sense of the sin they incur when they omit Sunday Mass for a less than grave reason — like cutting the grass.
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(Follow Reverendo Padre-Kevin Michael Cusick on Facebook and on Twitter @MCITLFrAphorism. Email Father at firstname.lastname@example.org.)