Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, The month of April is dedicated to devotion to the Holy Eucharist. Let us ask Mary, the Mother of the Eucharist, and St. Joseph to increase our Faith in the True Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist! The practice of our Catholic Faith is centered up the Holy Mass and the gift of the Holy Mass is a priceless Spiritual Treasure! The main way for most Catholics to experience the Holy Mass is on Sunday. The priority of Sunday for Holy Mass has been set by our Lord Jesus. Tragically, many Catholics have either forgotten or chosen to ignore the priority of worshipping God on Sunday. Many who might follow Jesus show a willingness to put Sunday Holy Mass second or third or even last among the many activities that could be done on Sunday. Our society needs conversion to the mind of Jesus regarding Sunday Holy Mass. Let us pray for this intention during the remainder of this Easter Season and, when we reach Pentecost Sunday, may our good Lord grant the grace of the Holy Spirit to move the hearts of Catholics throughout the world to make time for Holy Mass each Sunday! This week I share with you a beautiful meditation on Sunday - the Lord‟s Day. I encourage you to take time to read it through a few times this week. “Sunday is the Lord’s Day: On Sundays there is an assembly of all who live in towns or in the country. This is the first day, on which God transformed darkness and matter and made the world; the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead. (Divine Office, Second reading, St. Justin, First Apology, 67) The Jewish Sabbath gave way to the Christian Sunday from the very beginning of the Church, and from then on, every Sunday we celebrate the Lord‟s Resurrection. Saturday was the day dedicated to Yahweh in the Old Testament. God Himself instituted it (Gen. 2:3) and commanded the Israelites to abstain from certain tasks on that day in order to honor Him properly. (Ex. 20:8-11, 21:13; Deut. 5:14) It was also the day on which the family got together to celebrate the end of the captivity in Egypt. As time passed, the rabbis complicated the divine precept, so that by the time of Jesus there had come into being a series of oppressive and meticulous prescriptions that bore no relation to what God had laid down about the Sabbath. The Pharisees clashed frequently with Jesus on these points. In spite of this, Our Lord did not look down on the Sabbath, did not suppress it as a day dedicated to Yahweh; on the contrary, it would seem to have been his favorite day. On that day He went to the synagogues to preach, and many of His miracles were performed on the Sabbath. Sacred Scripture everywhere presents a lofty and noble idea of the Sabbath. It was the day established by God so that His people might devote to Him public cult, and the complete dedication of the day to this purpose appears as a grave obligation. (cf. Ex. 31:14-15) The importance of this command is also deduced from its repetition in Scripture. Sometimes the prophets point out as a cause of God‟s punishments the fact that people have not kept the Sabbath. The Sabbath rest was a strictly religious event, which is why it always culminated in the offering of a sacrifice. (cf. Num. 28:9-10) The feast days of Israel, and particularly the Sabbath, were a sign of the Divine Covenant and the people‟s way of expressing their joy at being God‟s property and the object of His election and His love. That is why every feast day was linked to a salvation event. Yet these feast days contained only the promise of a reality which still had to take place. With the Resurrection of Our Lord the Sabbath gives way to the reality which it had foreshadowed, the Christian celebration. Our Lord Himself speaks of the Kingdom of God as a great banquet offered by a King on the occasion of the wedding of His son, (cf. Matt. 22:2-13) through whom we are invited to share in the messianic benefits. (cf. Is. 25:6-8) With Christ there arises a new and superior cult, because now we have also a new Priest, and a new Victim is offered. Feast days and Holy Days of Obligation - their purpose. The Holy Mass, center of Catholic festivities: After the Resurrection, the first day of the week was commemorated by the Apostles as the Lord‟s day, dominica dies (Rev. 1:10), the day on which He had won victory over sin and death for us through His Resurrection. For that reason the first Christians had their meetings on a Sunday. And that has been the constant and universal tradition up to the present day. The Church, following an Apostolic Tradition which began with the Resurrection of Christ, celebrates the Paschal Mystery once a week, on the day which is fittingly called the ‘day of the Lord’ or Sunday. (Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, 106) This precept of sanctifying holy days regulates one of man‟s essential duties with regard to His Creator and Redeemer. We render cult (ie. worship) to God on this day dedicated to Him specially, through participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass. There is no other celebration which could fill the meaning of this precept.
In addition to Sunday, the Church established holy days to commemorate the chief events of our salvation: Christmas, Easter, the Ascension, Pentecost and other feasts of our Lord, and the feasts of Our Lady. Alongside these, from earliest times the Church has celebrated the dies natalis (birth day into Heaven) or anniversary of the martyrdom of the first Christians. These Christian holy days eventually became the basis of the civil calendar. In her calendar, the Church commemorates the mysteries of Redemption, opens the riches of the sanctifying power and merits of our Lord in such a way that in a certain sense these become present at every moment, so that the faithful can put themselves in contact with them and become filled with the grace of salvation. (ibid., 102)
The center and origin of the joyfulness of Christian feasts is to be found in the presence of Our Lord in His Church. He is the pledge and anticipation of definitive union in the celebration which will have no end. (cf. Rev. 21:1ff; 2 Cor. 1:22) From it there springs the joy that characterizes our Sunday celebration: this rejoicing is seen in today‟s prayer over the offerings: Lord, receive these gifts from Your Church. May the great joy You give us come to perfection in Heaven. That is why a holy day is not merely a remembrance of past events, an historical anniversary: rather is it a Sign which shows Christ and makes Him present amongst us. The Holy Mass makes Jesus present in His Church: it is a sacrifice of infinite value offered to God the Father in the Holy Spirit. All other human, cultural and social values of holy days have to take second place to this: they cannot be allowed at any moment to obscure or substitute from what is fundamental. Alongside the Holy Mass, other expressions of liturgical and popular piety such as Benediction, processions, chants, special care in dress, etc. are particularly important. We must try through example and apostolate to make Sunday into the Lord’s day, a day of adoration and glorification of God, of the Holy Sacrifice, of prayer, of rest, of recollection, of cheerful meetings in the family. (Pius XII, Address, 7 September 1947) Public worship - Sunday rest: Let the earth cry out to God with joy; praise the glory of His Name; proclaim His glorious praise, we read in the Entrance Antiphon. (Ps. 65:1-2) The precept of sanctifying holy days responds also to the need to give public cult (ie. worship) to God. We cannot be satisfied on such occasions with merely private cult. Some people try to relegate dealing with God to the realm of conscience, as if it did not necessarily have to have external expression. However, man has the right and the duty of giving public and external cult to God. It would be gravely harmful if Christians were obliged to hide away in order to practice their Faith and worship God, which is their primary right and duty. Sundays and Church holy days are, above all, days set aside for God, days particularly well suited to looking for Him and finding Him. ‘Quaerite Dominum.’ We can never cease to look for him: however, there are moments which demand doing so with more intensity, because during those periods Our Lord is particularly close, and so it is easier to find and meet Him. This nearness constitutes Our Lord’s answer to the Church’s invocation, which is expressed continuously by means of the liturgy. Even more so, it is the liturgy which precisely actualizes the nearness of the Lord. (John Paul II, Homily, 20 March 1980) Holy Days of Obligation are of great importance in helping Christians to receive the action of grace more fully. During these days the believer is asked to interrupt his work in order to dedicate himself the better to Our Lord. But there is not festivity without celebration, since a holy day does not consist simply in refraining from working. Neither can there be a Christian feast day without the faithful coming together to give thanks, to praise the Lord, to remember His deeds. And so it would be very unchristian to plan to spend the weekend or a „Holy Day‟ of Obligation in such a way as to make impossible or very difficult one‟s dealings with God. It happens to certain lukewarm Catholics that they end up thinking they have insufficient time to hear (ie. be present for) Holy Mass, or they rush through it as if freeing themselves from a burdensome obligation.
Rest is not only an opportunity to recuperate energies, but is also the sign and the anticipation of the definitive repose of that celebration which is Heaven. That is why the Church wishes to celebrate her feast days by including in them a rest from work. On the other hand, Catholics, like anyone else, have a right to that rest, a right which the State must guarantee and protect. This holy day rest must not be interpreted as a simple doing nothing, a mere passing of the time, but rather as a positive involvement in something which enriches the personality in different ways. There are many ways of resting, and it is important not to take the easiest way out, which often is not the one that rests us most in any case. If we know how to limit the use of television on feast days as well, for example, we will not be repeating so much the false excuse of not having time. On the contrary, we will see that during those days we can spend more time with our family, look after the education of our children, develop social relationships and friendships, make a visit or two to people in need, or to those who are alone or sick. Perhaps this will be our chance to have a longer conversation with a friend. Or it may be the moment that a mother or father needs to speak with one of their children on their own, and listen to them. In general terms one must know how to have one’s whole day taken up with a flexible schedule in which, besides the daily norms of piety, an important place should be given to rest, which we all need, to family get-togethers, to reading, and to time set aside for an artistic or literary hobby or any other worthwhile pastime. We live poverty by filling the hours of the day usefully, doing everything as well as we can, and living little details of order, punctuality and good humor. (Conversations with Monsignor Escriva, 111)” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of the joyful Heart of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may God bless us with the graces we each need to grow in holiness this Easter Season! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel