The Greatest Gift Part 2

bpricken_headshot_new

Bishop Ricken

I am so proud of our priests, our diocesan staff and parish leaders who have been so creative about reaching out to you with virtual Masses during the pandemic. This connection has been indispensable to keep all of us connected, but now it is time to return in person.  

While online parish Masses and activities continue for those who need them, there is no substitute for receiving the gift of Jesus Christ himself in the gift of the proclaimed Word in the assembly of believers. There is no substitute for receiving the very gift of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ during the celebration of the Mass, the Supper of the Lamb. There is no substitute for praying together as a community of missionary disciples, thanking and praising God for the gift of the past week and begging his help for the week to come.

We absolutely need to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist! There is no substitute for being able to reach out to our families, filled with the gift of Jesus within us, and to our neighbor and community by sharing this eucharistic gift with others in need, whether physically or spiritually. At the end of every Mass, we are sent forth to do just this, to make a difference in the lives of others, “Through Him, with Him and in Him.”

Why does the church place such a serious priority on Sunday Mass attendance anyway? Very simply put, it is the will of God. Remember the Third Commandment: “To Keep Holy the Lord’s Day.” The Lord’s Day for followers of Jesus is Sunday, based upon his resurrection from the dead. In the Old Testament, the Creator, the Father, required one day of rest after six days of work. The one day required for rest was the requirement of Friday evening and Saturday as the Sabbath. That is the Jewish observation of the Lord’s command, a day for thanking God in ritual worship and a day for rest.

The church establishes Sunday, the first day of the week, as the day of giving praise and thanksgiving to God the Father through participation in the act of praise and thanksgiving called the Mass. Sunday is also a day of rest, a day to reconnect to family, to slow down our minds, hearts and actions, and to enter into and gather around the most important things in life, one of which is “to give thanks” to God for all of his gifts to us in the past week and to perhaps visit someone who might need your visit or your care and concern.

My brothers and sisters, I cannot tell you how much I am enjoying celebrating the TV Sunday Masses. It has allowed me to be closer to you than I could ever have asked or imagined on such a regular basis. I hope to continue the celebration of this TV Mass for as long as possible for those who are homebound, in nursing homes or in prison. I know that so many of you have written to express to me your gratitude for this gift. I am so happy that, through the support of our donors, we can provide this service for you.

However, for those who are able to come to Mass in person, there is no substitute for doing so. The TV Mass and other virtual Masses are just that. They are “virtual,” they are a very close approximation of the Mass, and the Mass is truly celebrated, but it is not in person. That is why many of our parishes are providing and/or will provide holy Communion in the home or in your health care facility, so that those who are confined to home and cannot come to the Mass in person, may still receive the holy Eucharist. 

Many of you have also written to me to say how glad you are to once again participate in “in person” Masses at your parish with your parish priest. Yet you also mention that you still go home to also join in the TV Mass, because it helps you connect with fellow believers and disciples, and with me, your bishop. I am so very glad for that!

While we had a time away from our Lord in the Eucharist and “in person” Mass, now is the time to reconnect with our Lord, and with our community of believers in this most irreplaceable way.

Brothers and sisters, let’s remember that all of life is a journey. It is a daily walk with our God and with one another as we make our way to our eternal home, which will last so much longer than this short life. Every day is a gift. Every day can become an act of thanksgiving, even in the midst of trial and struggle. God is with us. Jesus is walking with us. He is present with us every day and especially at Sunday Mass in the holy Eucharist. He is especially present in every one of our churches, in the tabernacles, waiting to be taken to the sick and homebound and available 24 hours in the precious gift of the Eucharist.

I encourage you to drive by your local church for a little visit and grow your relationship, your discipleship, by kneeling or sitting a few minutes at the feet of the Master. The holy Eucharist, the gift of God himself to us is a true gift, the greatest gift ever!