February 26, 2017 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 26 February  Comments Off on February 26, 2017 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Feb 282017

Although the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Church has 1,752 separate laws, there are only six precepts, as the Church calls them, that are the basic house rules, if you will. I thought that I’d go over them with you a bit, so that together we can have more grist for the mill for our Lenten preparations. Of course they are in addition to the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes and other admonitions, but we need to know and observe these six precepts.  Sometimes it’s important to go over the basics.

Here’s the list and then we’ll reflect on each one separately:

  • Attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation
  • Receive Holy Communion during the Easter Season
  • Confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year
  • Fast and abstain on appointed days
  • Observe the marriage laws of the Church
  • Contribute to the support of the Church

Let’s go over them:

  1. Attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of obligation.

Every Catholic is required to attend a Catholic Mass on each and every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. Missing Mass on one of those days is a mortal sin, and when we miss we are putting our souls in jeopardy. Inclement weather, bad health and finding ourselves too far from a Church to attend, do excuse us from the obligation, but that’s about it.

Even on vacation Catholics are obliged to attend Mass. It just takes a little planning. Non-Catholic religious services are fine, but they aren’t a substitute. So if you go to a Baptist service with a friend or family member, there’s still the obligation to go to Mass. And if there is some reason you can’t receive Holy Communion; for instance if you’ve committed a mortal sin and you haven’t gone to confession, you still need to be at Mass.

One of the things folks often forget is that when we skip Mass, particularly on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, we deprive the community of our prayers and we don’t receive the prayers of our brothers and sisters. That’s why I almost always use the confession of sin at the beginning which asks that “you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.” It’s part of our privilege and responsibility as Catholics.

  1. Receive Holy Communion During Easter Season

Catholics are required to receive Holy Communion during Easter Season, which for U.S. Catholics is between Ash Wednesday and Trinity Sunday.

Back in the middle ages, many Catholics felt personally unworthy to receive the Eucharist on a regular basis, even though the Church never endorsed this. In the early part of the 20th century, Pope St. Pius X felt that Catholics should receive Christ every time they went to Mass, as long as they were without the blemish of mortal sin.

So Catholics were encouraged and prepared for regular reception of Christ’s Body and Blood. It’s key for ongoing faithfulness. Once again I remind you that the Mass is the Source and Summit of our faith; without it we are greatly diminished.

This precept is also a not so subtle reminder to tend to those things that would keep us from receiving Holy Communion, such as a troubling mortal sin. Sometimes it’s really easy to let things slide. If this applies, go to confession.

  1. Confess Your Sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at Least Once a Year.

Now technically this is not required of anyone who is neither guilty nor conscious of a mortal sin. I would remind you that for a sin to be mortal there must be three things: 1). It is a grave matter; 2) there must be full knowledge that it is sin, and 3) there must be full consent; for example it’s not a mortal sin if someone forces you to do something that’s sinful.  Missing Sunday Mass without a valid excuse, such as really bad weather or serious illness would be one example of a mortal sin.

Another would be blasphemy by using God’s name in vain. These and all other mortal sins must be confessed before a Catholic can worthily receive the Holy Eucharist. The bare minimum requirement is that those in a state of mortal sin must go to confession and receive absolution before receiving Holy Communion. It’s actually a sacrilege to receive Holy Communion when in the state of mortal sin; it’s a sort of spiritual double jeopardy. That’s Church teaching.

  1. Fast and Abstain on Appointed Days

On the one hand, abstaining applies to all Catholics age 14 and older. It means that we may not eat meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. (And “meat” is any red blooded animal: beef, pork, venison, elk, bison, antelope, rabbit, chicken, turkey, grouse, chukar partridge, goose, duck and so forth. Knowing what some of you folks have in your freezers, it’s helpful to paint the definition with a broad stroke.) It also includes things such as gravies and soups that have a meat or chicken stock base.

Fasting, on the other hand, applies to all Catholics ages 18-59. So if you are 17 or under or 60 and over, the fasting requirements do not apply. At minimum, a fast means that one may eat only one full meal and two small meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and this means no snacks between meals. If possible, we are encouraged to consume less on those days.

Pregnant mothers, people who are ill and those traveling receive dispensations, which can be obtained from your parish priest. And since February 23, 1966, it has been authorized that a substitution of other acts of penance may take the place of the observance of abstinence and fast on the appointed days of the year. If in doubt, check with your pastor.

By the way, some Eastern Rite Catholics and Orthodox observe what’s called the Great Lent which means that they don’t eat any meat, eggs or dairy products, and sometimes even fish, during all 40 days of Lent. Sometimes they even fast in addition to this abstinence. I emailed my dear friend Fr. Jim Thompson who’s Orthodox about this. He wrote back and I have his permission to share some of what he said: There are so many layers to Lent itself, that it’s a little hard to untangle things sometimes.  But all look forward to peanut butter, hummus and baba ganoush.  Sure we do.

  1. Observe the Marriage Laws of the Church

In a Catholic marriage there are always 3 parties involved: the bride, the groom and the Lord Jesus Christ. The sacrament of marriage is a covenant between the couple and God. It’s God’s original intent that his image is manifested as both man and woman—together— and marriage is the way that he ordained this. The Church has imposed all kinds of safeguards to affirm this covenantal dimension in marriage, including Catholics, a Catholic married to a non- Catholic and for those who are not Catholic. I’ll not go into the details now, but know that those teachings are of God.

And cemented to the covenant of marriage are issues of procreation and human life in general. Some time back Pope Benedict XVI listed 5 other non-negotiable issues indelibly linked with covenantal marriage. They include abortion, artificial birth control, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and homosexual marriage. The Church teaches that these must be refuted. Marriage is not just about the husband and wife. It’s an affirmation of all human life as God intended. It’s a sign of Christ’s relationship with his bride the Church, and Lent is a good time to remind ourselves of this.

  1. Contribute to the Support of the Church

I must confess that one of the biggest challenges I encountered when I became Catholic was the general resistance to the notion of tithing. Somehow it’s perceived as a burden rather than a blessing. So I’ve backed off on pressing the issue, but I still believe that it pleases God to give away ten percent of what we receive financially and if Deanna and I were to stop tithing, then we would encounter God’s disappointment and perhaps even displeasure. I admit, now that I’m retired, Deanna and I spread the tithe around a lot more than we did when I was employed, but we both still make sure that we give away at least 10% of our income.

Having said that, the Church is clear that we all need to give something for her mission, ministry and maintenance. This includes our time and talent as well as treasure. It’s important, both for us and the Church.

So again, here are the 6 precepts of the Church:

  • Attend Mass on all Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation
  • Receive Holy Communion during the Easter Season
  • Confess your sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year
  • Fast and abstain on appointed days
  • Observe the marriage laws of the Church
  • Contribute to the support of the Church

In closing, it must be said that nobody goes to heaven merely by being obedient. There must be love of God and love of neighbor as oneself. After all, salvation is a free gift from our loving God through our Lord Jesus Christ. However, observing the laws of God, especially through the admonitions of the Church, helps each one of us to be a better person, a better Christian and a better Catholic. And just as following your doctor’s advice promotes good health, following these precepts in particular help promote holiness. Having said all this, I pray you a holy Lent.