I can remember distinctly as I was growing up the hustle and bustle of Sunday morning, each member of my family flying past each other as we readied ourselves in our single-bathroom house for Church. My family always attended the early Mass on Sunday morning (and my dad always seemed to be petitioning Father to have it earlier, much to my adolescent chagrin). Dad, inevitably, was in the car 15 minutes before we ever had to leave. Our “spot” was front and center, one pew back, right in front of Father. Let’s just say: it was noticeable when we weren’t there.
More than any family vacation we took (all of which I loved!) and more than any gift I ever received from my parents (which were many), I find myself thinking back on those Sunday memories with the greatest fondness. Sunday morning meant something in our house. And while I’ll readily admit that that wasn’t always the case, it came to be the reality—because we made the simple decision that, no matter the busyness or the fatigue, we were going to show up for God, to enter into His Sabbath rest each Sunday morning. And there is nothing that I am more grateful for.
I was reading the other day a recent pastoral letter from Bishop Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, entitled “O Sacred Feast.” (Google it! It’s very moving. And short!) In it, Bishop Olmsted encouraged his flock to rediscover a love for the Eucharist and for Sunday Mass. He quotes an exhortation given by St. John Paul II on the Sunday Eucharist:
“From the beginning of my Pontificate, I have not ceased to repeat: ‘Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!’ In the same way, today I would strongly urge everyone to rediscover Sunday: Do not be afraid to give your time to Christ! Yes, let us open our time to Christ, that he may cast light upon it and give it direction. … The rediscovery of this day is a grace which we must implore, … so that we may respond concretely to the deepest human yearnings. Time given to Christ is never time lost, but is rather time gained, so that our relationships and indeed our whole life may become more profoundly human” (Dies Domini 7).
Bishop Olmsted continues:
“My dear brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, with love and care as your spiritual father, I call you to turn your hearts with renewed fervor to our Lord in the Holy Eucharist and to unwavering fidelity in keeping holy the Lord’s Day every Sunday.
These are difficult times with health concerns and conflicting information about what is needed to remain healthy and to prevent the spread of disease. However, we all have a real need to find our security and life in Christ. Are we not in need of a Savior? Is He not the only Lord?”
Certainly, we are not on the other side of this pandemic just yet, and all of us must continue to take proper precautions for the sake of vulnerable populations. But there is a pandemic of doubt—a pandemic of faithlessness and apathy and acedia—occurring in our midst, brothers and sisters, and it has been for some time. Might we all do well to reassert ourselves this Lent in what matters most in this life: Sunday Mass and the Eucharist? Without these, our humanity simply crumbles (and boy, we only have to look around to see how that’s true!).
Be convicted of the truth we find here. Make your return as soon as it is prudent to do so. And then, for the sake of souls, don’t be afraid to invite back those who have strayed. If not you, then who will answer the Lord’s call to carry His saving love to the brokenhearted, the lost, the poor, the unloved, and those who need it most? If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
Keep spreading joy!