“Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” -1 Cor 9:25
As we focus our attention on the National Eucharistic Revival in the Archdiocese of Detroit, we are also very mindful of the challenges facing families who have difficulty attending Mass on Sundays. One competing factor is sports with practices and games on Sundays. In his newest pastoral note, “The Day of the Lord,” Archbishop Vigneron asks that competitive athletic programs in the grade school and high school levels “no longer play games or conduct practices on the Lord’s Day,” an act of charity for parents navigating family conflict about sporting events they enjoy just like their children.
The same discipline learned with sports can be applied to our discipline to spend time with Jesus on Sundays in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Just as there is athletic training, we are called to spiritual training to win, as Saint Paul tells us, “an imperishable crown.” When we are together as a family on Sunday, the Day of the Lord, we grow more aware of his love for each of us. The “imperishable crown” from the discipline of participating in the Mass on Sunday is eternal life.
Many of us have never learned how we encounter Jesus in the Holy Mass. Perhaps we see the obligation to participate in Mass on Sunday as an imposition rather than a gift. We are still recovering from the COVID pandemic, and many have not returned to Mass. What we may not realize is this gift of attending Sunday Mass flows from our Baptism. We are baptized into Christ and his Church. This means we become members of the family of God, the family of the Church. We are also members of our Families of Parishes and of course the domestic Church, our own family. The family is being attacked in so many ways that we need to encounter Jesus so that he can assist us in the battle against the many evil influences of our time. Our department of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship assists families to prepare for each Sunday with “52 Sundays” as well as many other opportunities.
Each encounter with Jesus, either in the Mass as we receive holy Communion or in Eucharistic Adoration, is an opportunity for growth in relationship. These opportunities are waiting for us in the many ways that we can participate in the National Eucharistic Revival. Our eucharistic Lord brings us into communion with one another because of his love of each of us, and his longing that we might all be one, as he and the Father are one. At our baptism, we receive a “seal or character” which opens our lives to receive the many graces of the sacraments: reconciliation, anointing of the sick, matrimony, holy orders, confirmation, and of course Jesus himself in the Holy Eucharist. Each sacrament is a real encounter with Jesus who forgives, gives hope to the suffering and dying, binds a husband and wife together and gives us priests to assist us in knowing him more and more each day. In the sacrament of confirmation, we receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and a “seal or character” that enables us to be a witness for Jesus and the Church.
Each Mass concludes by sending us on mission, a mission to evangelize and bring others to encounter the saving love of Jesus. We can be witnesses to the Gospel because we have participated in the sacrifice of the Mass and recognize the transformation in our lives. Not only are we obliged to bring Jesus to others, we are also obliged to speak the truth in charity, in season and out of season. We are obliged, not as a burden, but as a gift, to love and serve our neighbor. Jesus unites us in communion, and this communion is meant to be shared with others!
So, do we want our children to miss the opportunity of a Sunday in which they encounter Jesus, grow in holiness and the love of family life and share that love in service to others? As we consider the beginning of the school year and the many options for how we spend our time, let us place the God who made us, loves us and sustains us before any other activity and go to Sunday Mass….perhaps even invite a neighbor or friend! This is the crown that will last for all eternity.