Third Sunday of Easter

THEY CAME TO KNOW HIM IN THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD. In my bulletin article two weeks ago, on Easter Sunday, I wrote about today’s Gospel of the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus who came to know the Risen Lord in “the breaking of the bread.” [Luke 24:35] Last week, I wrote about the 2nd Sunday of Easter’s Gospel in which Saint Thomas tried to get to know the Risen Lord without joining the other Apostles. For 2,000 years, many have also tried to know Jesus without coming to Sunday Mass or receiving the Eucharist. Here are some of the reasons why the Catechism of the Catholic Church, based on sacred Scripture, has a ‘Sunday Obligation’ weekly gathering rule:

“On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.” [CCC #2185]

“Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sports, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure… In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees.” [CCC #2187]

“[t]hose who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” [CCC #2181] Notice it does NOT say it is a ‘mortal’ sin, which requires three conditions: it must be a serious matter [which it is] – knowledge [you know … or should know … that it is wrong!] and consent [you must freely choose it, even though you know it is wrong].

There are legitimate reasons for missing Mass, like: being ill; caring for an infant or sick person; it’s physically or morally impossible, as on a cruise ship that offers no Mass, navigating flooded or icy roads, etc.; the Priest does not show up [trying to get to another church is commendable, but not required]; children or those unable to drive but have no one to drive them; etc. [Cf: CCC #2181] However, while those who fit these categories are not guilty of sin, they are still obligated to “keep holy the Sabbath Day” by spending some time in prayer, alone or with others, watching a broadcasted Mass, etc. [The COVID caused dispensation from Mass is long over, as is simply watching Mass via the media!]

Pastors are permitted to dispense from– or just commute [suggesting alternative ways to keep Sunday holy, like meditating on the readings, etc.] – those who know in advance that they will be unable to participate in holy Mass on a Sunday or Holy Day of Obligation. Travelling or vacationing of itself does not excuse us, unless getting to Mass creates an undue burden. The 1983 revised Code of Canon Law removed the stipulation that ‘as long as I get in before the Gospel and stay until the Priest’s Communion I’ve fulfilled my obligation’ notion. If we’re late because of unforeseen circumstances [traffic, accident, issues with children, etc.] or must leave early for a valid reason, we fulfill our obligation. Why we were late/left early determines if we did or did not fulfill the obligation.

While Saturday was the Sabbath Day, that was changed when Jesus rose from the dead on the eighth day, the first day of the week, and appeared to Mary Magdalene, the Apostles in the Last Supper’s Upper Room, the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus, and the previously absent Saint Thomas … on a Sunday. Thus, the Apostles, to whom Christ gave the power ‘to loose or to bind,’ began to meet weekly on Sundays – a tradition the Catholic Church has kept ever since.

So, Holy Mother Church, who knows what is best for her children, lovingly obligates us to come together each Sunday or Saturday night to hear God’s word, receive Jesus in the Eucharist, and support each other! Happy Eastertime!

With God’s love and my prayers,

Very Rev. Michael J. Kreder, VF, KCHS