This past weekend I was going through my notebook from the Catholic teacher education course I took last summer when I came across a quote from one of the instructors I had written down:
No where in the Bible does Jesus say to us that we must go to Mass every Sunday or go to confession at least once a year.
This is a very bold statement with even bolder implications, especially when given by a person with some academic authority in front of a room of impressionable young teachers. I distinctly remember twitching in my seat, but at the time I had no way of countering this statement. To be honest, when I racked my brain, I couldn’t find an answer that could have suitably swayed the argument towards an acceptance of our dominical obligation.
That was, until my pastor made a very profound observation on the Gospel during his homily this past weekend.
The Gospel story from Luke is a well known one. It recounts Jesus’ return to Nazareth at the start of his ministry, as the people are beginning to learn of his teaching in the synagogues throughout Galilee. It wasn’t Jesus’ reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah and his subsequent announcement that he is the Christ foretold by the prophet that struck me as Father expounded the Gospel in his homily. Instead, it was Father pointing out the significance of a seemingly insignificant line that caught my attention:
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. (Lk 4:16)
As was his custom. In other words, Jesus was in the habit of keeping the Fourth Commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy. (cf. Ex 20:8) Although he is the Christ, himself, the living Temple of the Lord our God, Jesus, in the humbleness of his humanity, did the Father’s will and went to synagogue on Saturday (or, as a Christian equivalent, he went to church on Sunday).
As the saying goes – actions speak louder than words; and through his actions, Christ was telling us that we need to meet our dominical obligation to deepen our relationship with him by becoming an imitation of him.
As the beautiful expression of St. Augustine states: “Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Our entire existence is one that is meant to bring us back to the Lord. What more beautiful way is there to bring restfulness to our hearts, than by becoming one with the Lord in thought and action.
Although Christ never commanded us: Thou shalt go to Mass on Sunday, he definitely showed us by example that we should. Since he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom; then we too should make it our custom to go to church on the Sabbath day.