Friday, September 16, 2011

Fr. Perrone: The Church is right to demand faithful participation in Mass every Sunday

Fr. Perrone's homily from this past Sunday is a worthy read whether you are following the 1962 Missal or the new Mass.

[Some paragraphs are broken into smaller paragraphs to make it easier to read on the web. An (*) denotes that the text was part of the previous paragraph in the original.]

13th Sunday after Pentecost 2011 (1962 Missal)

There is a dynamic operative in the drama of our Christian lives which is played out every Sunday, and even every day, by our coming to church. There surely were strong reasons why the Church made it a precept binding under mortal sin that requires every Catholic to assist at Mass on all Sundays and holy days of obligation. Of course, the third Commandment gave us the more general law of observing the Sabbath day; it was only for the Church to specify how that obligation could be satisfied through the discipline of the Sunday Mass attendance.

Yet looking at the ‘dynamic’ (as I call it) of Mass-going from another point of view one can be struck by the thing that happens here in this church (among others) on a Sunday morning. People enter the church after a week of being out in the world – a term redolent with evil connotations–and come into the dwelling place of the Most High. What has happened to them throughout the week is the risky encounter with all the evils proffered by the world. And while there may have been moments in the intervening week that were good and holy through prayer, yet the contact with all that is profane in the world tends to disorient the religious man and, often enough, to sully him. The result is that our naturally propensity towards sin, our native weakness, finds a ready outlet in that span from Sunday Mass to Sunday Mass for succumbing to the lure of sin. And so, we notice a kind of cyclical activity which is the makeup of the Catholic life. We come here to be sanctified, to be uplifted, to elevate our minds towards God, to readjust our spiritual sensitivities towards what is righteous, to receive the most holy Eucharist–God Himself–and we emerge from the church as a renovated people.

*There is a real joy in this change that ought to have taken place within us every Sunday when we come forth from holy Mass (rightly celebrated, of course). Like Moses, we will have come down from the mountain heights, having seen God and heard His voice. It is a transforming experience, and it is meant to fortify us against the lurking contagion of the world which we must inevitably face throughout the approaching week. This process (to abbreviate the picture) looks like this: We come to Sunday Mass after fighting off the snares of the world, the flesh and the devil, and after perhaps having received some damaging blows and falls into the ditches of the world. And then we enter into God’s holy dwelling place to get a cleaning, a realignment of our thinking, and a spiritual rebuilding. We leave the church repaired, stronger and radiant with the graces of God. And if – at this church anyway–we have come for confession before holy Mass, this process is realized yet more fully.

*We are here absolved, released from the bonds, healed of the wounds and bruises caused by our sins, restored to spiritual health and nourished with the heavenly manna of God’s instruction (His word) and His most holy Sacrament. ¿Is not this / a truly wonderful phenomenon that takes place in this church Sunday after Sunday (or even daily for those who come during the week)?

The sad but inevitable truth is that in this present life there is ordinarily this recurring cycle of sin and grace. Even if it not necessarily be mortal sin and a reconversion every week, it is a least a matter of purification after contamination. And then follows the return to the familiar haunts of sinful opportunities which lie in wait for us upon returning to our weekly routine. Again, to get the view of this from another perspective–from God’s–it may look something like this. God rectifies and builds us up on Sunday, like a physician to his sick patient, and then we emerge from Mass to do injury to ourselves once again, only to make the return visit for another Sunday corrective and fortifying dose of grace. Even though this may not necessarily be a literal cycle of sin and grace, there is surely this underlaying process of the weekly refurbishing of our souls which takes place within the confines of these walls every Sunday.

One may regard this process with resignation and one may even feel somewhat defeated by the predictability. We are, after all, not meant to be going about in endless circles but in making progress, however slowly, towards perfection. We are headed towards a goal, a destination that requires not only that we die at the ‘right’ moment (being in a state of grace), but that we die better off in having profited from the wrong moves we have made and from all the grace that have been accorded us, so that we can have a high place with God. Should anyone ever challenge the Catholic precept of being obliged to assist at Mass every Sunday under pain of mortal sin, we should respond to him that besides the more fundamental obligation to adore God (which is primary), we have the human necessity of returning to God’s healing and nutritive work in our souls. We realize that the Church is absolutely right in demanding our faithful participation in Mass every Sunday.

In this holy Gospel, the ten lepers were only among many whom our Lord had healed.

The Scriptures indicate that there was an ongoing procession of such persons. More important than all these was their spiritual rehabilitation through the forgiveness of their sins. The moral lesson with which the passage concludes is a reminder for us to render thanks to the Lord for His mercies and compassion, a thing easily overlooked.

And this indicates that there is yet another reason among the many for our being participants in the Mass. This is the only way we can return a thanks to God that is commensurate to His bounty since the Mass is a thing of His own making.

You have a real need to be here for the celebration of the divine liturgy. The Church offers you a service you cannot obtain elsewhere. On it depends your spiritual welfare.

You are blest if you know this; you are more blest for having been made right and holy by it through the cleaning and upbuilding grace imparted to you through the weekly offering of the holy sacrifice of the Mass.

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