This weekend we happily celebrate with our young people who are receiving their First Holy Communion. We had to postpone our original plans because of the shut-down due to COVID-19 but once again, this is a reminder that we are not in control. And in God’s providence, this weekend is the moment to celebrate. Let’s be thankful we can, when so many around the world are persecuted for their faith and must celebrate their Catholic faith in secret.
Our young people have arrived at this important moment in their lives because of the faith of their parents. Parents made a solemn promise at their child’s baptism to raise them in the faith and bring them to church. We know that approximately 30% of Catholic in the US practice their faith. There are many reasons for this… But Our Lord is constantly calling us back to Himself.
“Always remain close to the Catholic Church, because it alone can give you true peace, since it alone possesses Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, the true Prince of Peace.” St. Padre Pio
During this time of COVID-19 there have been many voices that have complained that the church is not being courageous or bowing to the government and that it should be ignoring the restrictions. This is nonsense. The Church is also equally concerned with the health and well being of the faithful. We must exercise prudence and wisdom in all things. The Church has always taught that even if we do not have access to the Eucharistic celebration of the Mass, we can still receive it’s graces through Spiritual Communion.
The Sunday obligation springs from the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” Exodus 20:2-17
Although our bishop dispensed from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, we are still obliged to keep holy the Lord’s Day (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2168-2195). The Church places great emphasis that on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) we are to engage in prayer, both personally and as a family.
Saint Justin, the Martyr, wrote about this in 150 AD: “We all gather on the day of the sun, for it is the first day when God, separating matter from darkness, made the world; and on this same day Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead” (First Apology #67).
Even if we cannot go to Mass, we are still required to keep the day holy. Just because we are temporarily limited in what we can do on Sunday, it is not an excuse to be lazy or ignore the call to pray and remember what the Lord has done for us.
How often, in the past, did we attend Mass and then spend the rest of the day in drudgery, consumption, and isolation. We work, we shop, we fail to spend quality time with the loved ones under our own roof. While we are may be unable to go to Mass we can focus on making the day restful and joyful throughout as well as prayerfully joining in spiritual communion with the mass celebrated throughout the world.
Don’t blame the government if we do not take our faith seriously. This time of COVID-19 is going to test our metal. Will we slip into laziness and apathy, complaining and excuses? Or will we rise to the occasion?
The resurrection is the very heart of our faith as Christians. To ignore this day is to ignore Christ. This is his day and he wishes to spend it with us, that at least this one day in the week will be clearly marked off for him and with him. This is why the Church obliges us to attend Mass, unless otherwise dispensed, and to keep the day holy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes this: “The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship…. Sunday worship fulfills the moral command of the Old Covenant, taking up its rhythm and spirit in the weekly celebration of the Creator and Redeemer of his people” (#2176).
The resurrection of the Lord is a great mystery but also the promise of our own future when we will share in God’s own glory.
Spiritual communion, according to St. Thomas, is “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Holy Sacrament and a loving embrace as though we had already received Him.”
In the next few weeks we will be easing some restrictions and trying to make more room so that more people can come to Mass and still be safe.
Our Church is open every day for personal prayer and devotion.
Instead of complaining we can offer up our sufferings and the little inconveniences this virus has brought about. We have lived our faith in great freedom and ease for a long time here in the West. When in the not distant future we return to normal, and we will, we will remember that Sunday mass is not merely an obligation.
As our young people celebrate their First Holy Communion this Sunday, their joy and excitement reminds us that the Eucharist is a joyful, astonishing, abundant blessing and privilege.