|I have written a number of times in this column about the absolute necessity of Sunday worship if we are to live a fully Christian life. Sunday is “the day that the Lord has made” (Psalm 118:24), for it was on the first day of the week that Jesus rose from the dead and clothed our human nature with divine glory; it was also the day on which he bestowed the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, thus enabling the apostles to communicate the Spirit to us through their preaching of the gospel and celebration of the sacraments.
Sunday is the day when, in obedience to the Lord’s command “Do this in memory of me,” the Church gathers to hear the word of God and offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. At the Eucharist, the Church “becomes visible” in one place, the Lord’s house (in Greek, kuriakon: hence our word, church.). It is the weekly family gathering where we express our solidarity with Christ and with one another as members of His Body.
It has been said that the true proof of love is simply showing up. The proof of our love for one another is our willingness to be present with one another and for one another through our regular attendance at Sunday Eucharist. Indeed, it may justly be said that we come to church to benefit others even more than to benefit ourselves. Our coming to church is a true act of charity, for by our presence we let our brothers and sisters know that there is nothing and no one more important than the Lord and that without the Lord, and our regular weekly worship of him in the Eucharist, life loses its savor and meaning and we lose the connection that should exist between us. By our presence we actively respond to the Lord’s desire that all be one in him.
Last week, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Church in Austria and preached the homily printed below in the cathedral church of St. Stephen in Vienna. The Holy Father preached on the importance of Sunday worship. I thought you would enjoy reading what the Holy Father had to say.
Have a great week!
Pope Benedict’s Homily for Sunday, September 9, 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Sine dominico non possumus!* Without the gift of the Lord, without the Lord's day, we cannot live: That was the answer given in the year 304 by Christians from Abitene in present-day Tunisia, when they were caught celebrating the forbidden Sunday Eucharist and brought before the judge.
They were asked why they were celebrating the Christian Sunday Eucharist, even though they knew it was a capital offence. Sine dominico non possumus: in the word dominico (the Latin word for Lord’s day) two meanings are inextricably intertwined, and we must once more learn to recognize their unity. First of all there is the gift of the Lord -- this gift is the Lord himself: the Risen one, whom the Christians simply need to have close and accessible to them, if they are to be themselves. Yet this accessibility is not merely something spiritual, inward and subjective: the encounter with the Lord is inscribed in time on a specific day. And so it is inscribed in our everyday, corporal and communal existence, in temporality. It gives a focus, an inner order to our time and thus to the whole of our lives. For these Christians, the Sunday Eucharist was not a commandment, but an inner necessity. Without him who sustains our lives with his love, life itself is empty. To do without or to betray this focus would deprive life of its very foundation, would take away its inner dignity and beauty.
Does this attitude of the Christians of that time apply also to us who are Christians today? Yes, it does, we too need a relationship that sustains us, that gives direction and content to our lives. We too need access to the Risen one, who sustains us through and beyond death. We need this encounter which brings us together, which gives us space for freedom, which lets us see beyond the bustle of everyday life to God's creative love, from which we come and toward which we are traveling.
"Sine dominico non possumus!" Without the Lord and without the day that belongs to him, life does not flourish. Sunday has been transformed in our Western societies into the weekend, into leisure time. Leisure time is certainly something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. Leisure time requires a focus -- the encounter with him who is our origin and goal. My great predecessor in the see of Munich and Freising, Cardinal Faulhaber, once put it like this: Give the soul its Sunday, give Sunday its soul.
Because Sunday is ultimately about encountering the risen Christ in word and sacrament, its span extends through the whole of reality. The early Christians celebrated the first day of the week as the Lord's day, because it was the day of the resurrection. Yet very soon, the Church also came to realize that the first day of the week is the day of the dawning of creation, the day on which God said: "Let there be light" (Gen 1:3). Therefore Sunday is also the Church's weekly feast of creation -- the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God's creation. At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too. Then, for the early Church, the first day increasingly assimilated the traditional meaning of the seventh day, the Sabbath. We participate in God's rest, which embraces all of humanity. Thus we sense on this day something of the freedom and equality of all God's creatures.
In this Sunday's Opening Prayer we call to mind firstly that through his Son God has redeemed us and made us his beloved children. Then we ask him to look down with loving-kindness upon all who believe in Christ and to give us true freedom and eternal life. We ask God to look down with loving-kindness. We ourselves need this look of loving-kindness not only on Sunday but beyond, reaching into our everyday lives. As we ask, we know that this loving gaze has already been granted to us. What is more, we know that God has adopted us as his children, he has truly welcomed us into communion with himself. To be someone's child means, as the early Church knew, to be a free person, not a slave but a member of the family. And it means being an heir. If we belong to God, who is the power above all powers, then we are fearless and free. And we are heirs. The inheritance he has bequeathed to us is himself, his love. Yes, Lord, may this inheritance enter deep within our souls so that we come to know the joy of being redeemed. Amen.
*Latin for “We cannot live without the Lord’s day.”