We love our faith. This means we ought to love the Bible (and to read it), to love attending Mass on Sunday, and especially to love receiving Holy Communion. We can’t imagine living our lives without them. Could you ever imagine the government trying to take this gift away from us?
Martyrs of Sunday Mass
Seventeen hundred years ago the government did just that, as Pope Benedict XVI reminded us at the Eucharistic Congress in Bari, Italy in 2005. Although the Roman Empire was originally founded on democratic principles, it degraded into a series of despotic regimes who attempted to control the people through the ruthless use of power. Emperor Diocletian ordered that all Bibles be burnt, all Christian churches be torn down, and all Christians caught celebrating their sacred rites were to be punished with death.
It happened that in the year AD 303, 49 Christian Catholics were caught disobeying the Emperor’s edict, attending Mass in a home in Abitene, a small town in northern Africa, in present day Tunis. The 49 Christians were apprehended and taken to Carthage. The proconsul of Carthage, Anulinus, interrogated the Christians: “Do you keep the Sacred Scriptures in your homes?” To this the Christians replied, “We keep them in our hearts,” showing how the Scriptures were part of their life, not just something they read.
The proconsul asked Emeritus, “why do you receive Christians in your home against the imperial edict?” Emeritus replied, “We cannot live without Sunday.” It is true: we cannot live without the Mass, without the Sunday Eucharist, without the re-presentation of our Lord’s death and resurrection and without the Pentecost of the Holy Spirit.
As he did not get the direct response he wanted from the prisoners, the proconsul clarified: “I am not asking you if you are a Christian, but if you have taken part in the assembly or if you have a book of the Scriptures.” One of the Christians, Felice, responded: “What a foolish and ridiculous question! It should be clear as a bell that it is impossible to be a Christian without the Sunday Eucharist, or that the Sunday Eucharist could be celebrated without Christians! It is the Sunday Eucharist which makes the Christian and the Christian that makes the Sunday Eucharist, so that one cannot subsist without the other. When someone says ‘Christian,’ you know that there is an assembly that celebrates the Lord; and when someone says 'assembly,' you know that a Christian is there.”
Each one of us should be able to say that we cannot live without the Sunday Eucharist, that we do not have the strength to face our daily problems and obligations. When we receive Holy Communion, we are one with Christ and one with all other Christians spread throughout the world who have received Christ in the Eucharist. Thus we are never alone, but share in that wonderful lifeblood of the communion of the saints through our communion with Christ. Christians must live out a great unity of life where God’s Word affects every element of our existence. This moves us to see the needs of others as our own needs, as needs of Christ’s body. It moves us to forgive one another, to overlook the small and not so small defects we discover in those with whom we are united in Christ.
Let’s hope that we don’t need a governmental persecution so as to appreciate Sunday Mass again, but that we rediscover the treasure for which the early Christians were willing to die.
Happy Father's Day from all of us at St. Mary of the Angels!
Fr. John R. WaissOnline: http://motherofpurelove.blogspot.com