with Paul Ray
The Sacrament of Charity: Living the Sunday Obligation
We move ahead with Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI’s 2007 Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist and will discuss this week living the Sunday obligation. In last week’s article we looked at what it means to live in accordance with the Lord’s Day. This backdrop is what sets up the Church’s teaching on Sunday being a Holy day of Obligation. We understand that the Eucharist is the vital principle that is our whole Christian faith. It imparts to us sthe grace we need to live our vocation.
The Holy Father states, “The life of faith is endangered when we lose the desire to share in the celebration of the
Eucharist and its commemoration of the paschal victory.” This is precisely one reason why the Church has made
Sundays obligatory. He continues, “To lose a sense of Sunday as the Lord's Day, a day to be sanctified, is
symptomatic of the loss of an authentic sense of Christian freedom, the freedom of the children of God.” Sunday
can be understood as the “Holy Day of Holy Days”. It gives us reason and opportunity to gather, as a people
within the mystical Body of Christ, and experience heaven touching the earth. It gives us the strength to live our
vocation in the most effective manner.
The Sunday obligation and liturgy thus shows us the true meaning of time and creation. It gives rise to the
Christian meaning of life and a new way of experiencing time, relationships, work, life and death. In essence, it
provides the foundation of life and what it means to be human. Springing from the Sunday obligatory liturgy,
therefore, it is fitting that church groups be organized, social gatherings made ready, programs for the faith
formation of children, young people and adults, pilgrimmages, charitable works, and different moments of prayer.
All of which surround the Sunday Holy Mass and compliment it.
For the sake of these important values - while recognizing that Saturday evening, beginning with First Vespers, is
already a part of Sunday and a time where the Sunday obligation can be fulfilled - we need to remember that it is
Sunday itself that is meant to be kept holy, lest it end up as a day empty of God. This will be our topic next week.
- Paul A. Ray