‘Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path the sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD’ ( Psalms 01:01-02).
As the psalmist says, there are two ways before us. It has been so throughout history. It is a delusion that there are a number of ways. No, there are only two ways. You can either switch the lights on or switch them off. No other way. You can start your car and ride it, or you can park it somewhere. No other way. You can marry or remain a bachelor. No other way. You can eat or go on fast. No middle path.
‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) is not an option especially when it concerns matters as important as your life and death.
In every situation we have to take a decision. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is what is expected of us. When somebody asks you ”Who is Jesus Christ?” The answer should be clear, specific and unambiguous. Of course the answer depends on your personal relation with Jesus. As for me, Jesus is the Word Incarnate, Only Son of God, and Only Saviour of mankind. So I am a Christian. If you do not subscribe to my views, well, you have every right to do so. But then, you will be placed on the other side of the picture, that you will be counted among those who deny the divinity of Jesus. You cannot take a neutral stand like, ‘yeah, Jesus was a good man, a good prophet, a social reformer etc. etc…. but…’, even while asserting to be a Christian yourself. By taking such a stand you are denying the divinity of Jesus and what he achieved through his sacrifice in the cross for our salvation. It means you are positioning yourself against Christ. In our folly we might think that we have selected the safer path by diluting the core of Christianity so as to present ourselves as amiable to others. It is sheer folly. There is no middle path. We are either for Christ or against Christ.
To say Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour, we need to have a personal relation with him. Until we discover that personal equation with Jesus, we cannot confess that he is our only saviour. What is the best way to nurture a truly intimate relationship with Jesus and grow in it everyday? Undoubtedly, it is by attending Holy Mass everyday and partaking in the body and blood of Jesus who offers them for the forgiveness of our sins and as assurance for our eternal life. Should we emphasize more about the paramount need of attending Holy Mass every day?
Understandably, many of us may not be in a position to go to the church every day. But Sunday Mass is something which cannot, and should not, be skipped. Catholic Church has made Sunday a day of obligation. It is to keep the commandment of our Lord to honor the Sabbath.
We have grown up in an environment where churches were aplenty and open all the day, all the week. Finding a church for Sunday Mass was child’s play, be it in a busy metropolis or in a remote village. Since then nothing has changed; but for a few hundred churches across the globe that accidentally (?) caught fire or vandalised by insane (?) individuals, rest are still in good condition. Their only problem is with the doors. They are closed at many places depriving the faithful of the opportunity to meet their Lord in the serenity of their churches. There are other places where churches are opened and Holy Mass restarted. For them the problem is a bit different. Though the church is open, the hearts of the believers are closed. They simply don’t want to come to the church.
Why? Because they have discovered a better option. Instead of taking the trouble of going to the church, they can watch the Holy Mass sitting in the comfort of their drawing room, kitchen, lawn, parking lot or any other place of their choice. Why should they spend an hour in the church sitting next to strangers? For them, health is paramount and social distancing is the key to ward off Covid-19.
In such a situation it is no surprise that online Masses are becoming more and more popular. As this trend increases there is a proportionate increase in the vacant pews as well. Now let me ask you something and I request you to be sincere with your answer. How do you feel at an online Mass? Do you get the same experience as that of attending the Mass in a church? As for me, I would say ‘no’ and I presume most of the Catholics across the world would give the same answer. Then why should the Church permit the faithful to attend Holy Mass online and relax the Sunday obligation to that extent? Because there was no other way at that time. It was either ‘No Mass’ or ‘Online Mass’. Church preferred the second option for obvious reasons.
It doesn’t mean that the faithful are always permitted to fulfil their Sunday obligation by attending online Masses. Catholic teachings are very clear in this regard. Online Masses are intended only for those who are not in a position to attend regular Masses at a church due to some pressing reasons. The reasons can range from closure of your parish church to physical impediments to severe illness or advanced age restricting one’s mobility. We often forget this important aspect and keep on attending online Masses even when our churches are open and regular Masses have started there.
What is the difference between a regular Mass and an online Mass? Imagine a dinner at the White House with the President as host for which you are also invited. Naturally you will be elated. Now compare it with your own dinner at your dining room while watching President’s dinner in the television. Regular Mass is like attending the banquet in all its splendour. Its most important part is that we are receiving the true body and blood of Jesus there. In other words, we are participating in the FORM of the Holy Mass as well as its MATTER. Both are essential for getting the desired benefits out of it.
On the other hand, in the case of online Mass, we pass through the FORM of Mass skipping its MATTER. Do you think that you can derive the full graces and merits flowing from a Holy Mass if you attend it online?
Some might ask, “What should we do if we are not in a position to attend regular Mass?” Well, our God is merciful as well as omniscient. He knows
your predicament. He knows that though you long for attending the Mass in your church you are prevented from it by reasons beyond your control. There are thousands of such Christians who devoutly attend online Masses at their homes and benefit from Spiritual Communion. But it is an exception, not rule.
I am not telling about them but about those, who in spite of being able to attend the Mass at their churches, prefer online Mass for their convenience. A time is coming when we will long for attending a Holy Mass. A time will come when we will frantically run to get a priest. A time will come when we will stand before the closed doors of our churches , weeping and wailing. Those days are not far away. In fact we have already entered into that phase. Yet, if you could not appreciate the true value of our Lord’s sacrifice as re-enacted every day in Holy Mass, what else are you looking for?
Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us; ‘There is no surer pledge or dearer sign of this great hope in the new heavens and new earth “in which righteousness dwells,” than the Eucharist. Every time this mystery is celebrated, “the work of our redemption is carried on” and we “break the one bread that provides the medicine of immortality, the antidote for death, and the food that makes us live for ever in Jesus Christ'( CCC 1405).
If you are still in favor of attending online Mass, listen what the Church has to say; ‘At the heart of the Eucharistic celebration are the bread and wine that, by the words of Christ and the invocation of the Holy Spirit,become Christ’s Body and Blood’ (CCC 1333).
Also listen to our Lord’s words; ‘So Jesus said to them,” Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). Don’t you want that life, the one Jesus procured for us by giving up his own?
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6:56).Don’t you want to abide in Jesus for which he calls us every day from the altar? Won’t you let Jesus abide in you, which will please him more than anything else?
If your answer is ‘yes’, then come to the church. There the pews are still vacant and are waiting for you. Attend as many Holy Masses as possible when the church doors are still open. ‘Before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”, before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain’ ( Eccle. 12: 1-2) return to your churches. What else do you hope will save you from the impending perils of the fast approaching end times?
Do not follow the advice of the wicked who will discourage you from going to church. Do not take the path of sinners who always skip the road to the church. Do not sit in the seat of those scoffers who never sit in the pews. We are to be counted along with those who delight in the law of the LORD.
Let us sing:
‘Broken for me, broken for you,
the body of Jesus, broken for you.
This is my body given for you:
eat it remembering I died for you.
This is my blood I shed for you,
for your forgiveness, making you new’.