The Feast of All Saints

Are you a minimalist Christian?

You’ve heard the expression “It’s the least I can do.”  I wonder how many of us approach our faith with this expression as our “mission statement”.  What’s the least I can do to get into heaven?

The best example I can think of of this attitude is the question priests and deacons hear all the time regarding Saturday wedding masses.  “Does this count?”  Count??  Count for what?  Of course, we know what they’re asking.  “If I go to this wedding, do I have to go to mass on Sunday?  The bride and groom are going to have a great party and I’d really rather not get up on Sunday morning.”  They’re asking if the Saturday wedding fulfills their “Sunday obligation.

First, let me say I hate the term “Sunday obligation.”  Paying your taxes is an obligation.  Going to work every day is an obligation.  Contributing to the support of the Church is an obligation.  Worshipping the Lord IS NOT AN OBLIGATION.  It’s something we do out of love for our Creator.  Were you listening to the Gospel this Sunday.  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind.”

Loving with all your heart is not a minimalist concept.  We have to give Him everything, including our time.  The short answer to the above question is almost always NO.  God works outside of time.  Your so-called Sunday obligation is judged by the week’s readings, not by the time you showed up.  If you didn’t hear the readings for the Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, you didn’t attend last week’s mass.

Make no mistake, if you love the Lord God, “with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind,” then the concept of a “Sunday obligation” should have no meaning to you.  You should attend mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening) because you want to be there.  What part of the word “all” do you not understand?

Today is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation.  There’s that word again.  Do you go to mass today out of some sense of obligation, or do you go because you venerate the saints and want to pay tribute to them?  The Church has watered down the concept of Holy Days by moving some of them to Sunday but they are still holy days.  (small h and d)

Advent is coming and Christmas isn’t far behind.  This might be a good time to review your attitude toward the Lord.  The commercials for Christmas stuff have already started.  Let’s not let the commercialism of our Lord’s birthday get in the way of our love for Him.  I’ll say it one more time,

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your soul, with all your heart, and with all your mind.”  Now, if you haven’t gone to mass today, turn off your computer and get going.

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I Don’t Need to go to Mass

It seems that we hear this comment more and more often.  Sadly the people claiming they don’t need to go to mass call themselves “Catholics”.  What they don’t realize is that they’re harming their own souls and they’re harming the Church they claim to belong to.  “OK, deacon, I can see how they might be hurting their souls, but how are they hurting the Church?”

Let’s start with the fallacy of their reasoning.  The Ten Commandments tell us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  For the Hebrew people for whom this commandment was intended, that meant much more than our current Christian practices.  For them the Sabbath began at sundown the night before and ended at sundown of the Sabbath itself.  For the Jews that meant no work of any kind and a lot of time spent in the synagogue.  Our measly one hour mass on your choice of days (Saturday or Sunday) seems rather pitiful by comparison.  But, for now, that’s what the Church asks of us.

“But who died and left the Church in charge of my life?”  Simple:  Jesus died and left the Church in charge.  He said to Peter, “You are rock and on this rock I will build my church.”  Then He said to Peter and the Apostles, “Whoever hears you hears me.”  Some critics will say that Jesus was speaking only to the twelve and that this authority doesn’t apply to today’s church.

Well, take a look at what the eleven remaining Apostles did after Judas’ and Jesus’ death.  They were alone and afraid.  They were hiding out because their lives were in danger.  Yet they took time to appoint another Apostle to take Jesus’ place.  Clearly they had the authority to do that and they felt that it was an urgent need.  There had to be twelve.  It was the beginning of Apostolic succession.  New Apostles (bishops) are appointed and ordained by existing bishops.

I wrote this just the other day, “If you don’t believe everything Jesus said then He’s a liar and you can’t believe anything He said.”  I’d add to that that if you don’t believe everything He said, then you shouldn’t call yourself a Catholic.  Doing so makes you a liar because you don’t believe what Catholics believe.  You can paint white stripes on a black horse but it doesn’t make him a zebra, even if he says he is.

Here’s another thing that these so-called Catholics overlook.  Jesus left us with the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus’ very body and blood.  There’s only one place you can get it (with a few exceptions like hospitals and prisons) and that’s at mass.  You must attend mass to put yourself in the proper frame of mind to receive the gift of Jesus Christ both in the Word and in the Eucharist.  If you don’t see the value of that, or if, God forbid, you don’t believe He’s really there, then there is a serious gap in your Catholic education.

Here’s the thing.  If Jesus came back.  If He made appearances on television and invited you to come to Him, what would you do?  If you knew that He was going to show up at a local stadium and save everyone in attendance wouldn’t you put on your best clothes and go to that stadium hours early to be sure you got in.  Even if He was going to be 100 or 200 miles away, wouldn’t you make the trip?

Yet He does show up every Sunday in your local parish church.  You don’t have to drive 200 miles.  You don’t have to get there hours early.  You don’t even have to dress up (though that would be nice).  Jesus has made this salvation thing so easy it’s not out of the reach of anyone.  Yet 70% of the people who call themselves “Catholic” can’t be bothered to show up at His house for one hour once a week.

I want to go to heaven.  I want you to go to heaven.  I want everybody to go to heaven.  Jesus has given us this gift.  Does it really seem like such a burden to show up at His house once a week and say “thank you”?

Believe me, I’ve heard all the arguments.  In fact, for several years I used them myself.  “I don’t need to go to church.”  “I can talk to God anywhere I am.”  “Why do I have to go to a special building?”  You can’t kid me because I’ve been there.  Besides, you don’t have to kid me.  I’m not the one who’s going to be there at the final judgment looking you in the eye and asking “Where were you?”  Fortunately for me, I woke up before it was too late.

I know that I’m preaching to the choir here.  I doubt that anyone who reads this blog isn’t a regular church-goer.  But the statistics tell us that someone you love who has stopped going to mass.  You can give them a great gift by encouraging them to come back to the Church.  Feel free to share this post with them.  Maybe if they won’t listen to you, they’ll listen to a third party.  Whatever we do, it’s vital that we reach the ones we love before it’s too late.

Now to the second question, “How are these nominal (name only) Catholics hurting the Church?”  That’s simple.  Jesus didn’t just tell us what to do, He led by example.  Non-Catholics, especially those who have an axe to grind with the Church, look at everyone who calls themselves Catholic trying to catch us doing something wrong.  When people who don’t go to mass, people who say abortion is ok, people who constantly criticize the Church claim to be members it gives our enemies the ammunition they need to attack the Church.

You’ve heard the statistics.  “Most Catholics don’t support the Church’s position on ___________________ (fill in the blank).”  If that’s true then the Church must be wrong.  The trouble is that pollsters ask respondents to self-identify their religious affiliation.  If they phrased the question differently, asking if the person was a regular mass attendee the results would be much different.  Sadly, many of these former Catholics have a problem with the Church.  To tell an interviewer that they belong to the Church but disagree with its teachings may be their little act of defiance.

Bottom line, from a former nominal Catholic, nothing can substitute for attending mass and receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist.  Thats where Jesus is and that’s where we should be.

See you in Church!