Sunday Wasn't a "Duty" for Lily!
Last week one of the loveliest young women in our parish came to the 5 o’clock Mass looking like one of those photos you see on the internet labelled “plastic surgery gone horribly wrong.” Her eyes were almost swollen shut and her face was so puffy I did not recognize her.
The day before, she’d been enjoying herself at her family’s cabin on a small island when she found out the hard way that she is allergic to bee stings. A helicopter had to rush her off the island for emergency treatment in hospital.
Yet there she was at the five o’clock Mass. Why?
Why would someone who looked so awful—and who must have felt pretty awful, too—show up for Mass? Certainly she knew there was no Sunday obligation in those circumstances.
Can it have been that she needed the experience of community and fellowship? Liked the music? Wanted instruction from the homily?
These are all very good things, but they can’t adequately explain her sitting in the pew last week.
Only one thing, I suggest, could explain that—her belief in what happens at Mass. Specifically, a deep and personal belief that the Church is fulfilling the command of Jesus to “do this in remembrance of me” and that the same thing is happening as happened at the Last Supper: “Christ truly gives himself for us, and we truly gain a share in him” (Youcat 216).
The duty to attend Mass that we call the Sunday obligation was the farthest thing from the thoughts of that young woman. As Youcat, the Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “for a genuine Christian, ‘Sunday duty’ is just as inappropriate as ‘kiss duty’ would be for someone who was truly in love.”
I’m telling this story today because in a couple of minutes I will be mandating, on behalf of the Archbishop, our parish’s Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion—the women and men who assist in the distribution of Communion at Mass and who take the Eucharist to the sick and those in care homes.
I will ask them whether they are resolved to administer the Holy Eucharist with the utmost care and reverence. But it seems appropriate that we ask ourselves whether we are resolved to receive the Eucharist with the utmost care and reverence—with devotion, with respect, and with spiritual preparation.
The opening prayer or Collect this morning asks God to deepen our sense of reverence—not because He needs that but because we do. We prayed that by deepening our sense of reverence, God might nurture in us what is good. And surely the greatest of all goods is our relationship with him, the relationship that is nourished each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist.