Column By Father Matthew Reese
Recently, we have all received the news that all public Masses are suspended in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. This comes as a great shock to many of us because we, as Catholic Christians, center our lives around the celebration of the Mass and the reception of the sacrament of Holy Communion. This also shocks many of us because we grew up being taught, rather vigorously, that we need to observe the commandment, “keep holy the Sabbath.”
Someone asked me a few days ago, “how can we dispense from the commandment ‘keep holy the Sabbath?’” The answer is that we cannot. The Church is dispensing from the obligation of gathering as a large community to pray together on the Sabbath so as to protect those who are vulnerable to a highly contagious disease. We are still expected as practicing Catholic Christians to observe the commandment “keep holy the Sabbath” at all times! We need to take this time in our lives and seriously review how we keep the Lord’s day as His own, outside of the celebration of the Mass. This is not the time to lose our faith!
We have to see that keeping the Sabbath day holy is still possible, albeit on a more personal level for the time being. Take this opportunity as a Lenten/Easter challenge. These two seasons celebrate everything that makes us Christian believers. Are we going to allow these precious days slip by without acknowledgment? How can we do so in good conscience? We may be prevented from publicly participating in the highest form of prayer Jesus Christ gave to us at His Last Supper, but we can still pray and keep these sacred days holy. Perhaps through this challenging time when we are deprived of this most sacred gift Jesus could offer to us, the prayer of the Mass and the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, our appreciation for these great gifts may grow and in growing become for each of us an even greater inspiration for us to live our faith more fervently. Remember, Jesus is still here, even when He seems far away.
Father Matthew Reese is the Pastor of Our Lady of the Alleghenies Parish in Lilly and Diocesan Director of Vocations.