Saturday, October 2, 2010

Why do I have to go to Mass on Sunday?

Dear Rev. Know it all, 

Our pastor says it is a serious sin to miss Sunday Mass without a good reason. Is this true? Why is Sunday so important? What’s so special about the number 7? Isn’t it just an arbitrary number made up by human beings? Why can’t I pray just as well at home? God is everywhere, isn’t He? Why should I get up early, fight traffic, spend an hour with crying babies, strange people, (& I do mean strange) and all the cold viruses associated therewith? 
Yours truly, 
Narcissus Weakley

 Dear Mr. Weakley,

Your pastor is correct. First let me quote the catechism, paragraph 2181, “The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”

So, it is not just a sin, but a grave sin. Your question “Why?” is a good one. First of all seven is not just an arbitrary number invented by men.  In the natural world numbers are real. Have you ever heard of the Fibonacci sequence? If I could add two and two I’d try to explain it to you, but I am mathematically impaired. Still, I know enough to understand that number sequences define and describe reality. God works the numbers too, because numbers are a type of vocabulary.

The Bible is full of numbers and they are usually misinterpreted by those who read the Bible. For instance, when a modern person hears that Jesus was in the tomb three days or Noah was in the ark forty days, they start counting. Numbers are a kind of vocabulary.  Three is the divine number. It means God is involved. Forty is the number that means testing and so on.

Another sense in which numbers are used in the Bible is called “gematria.” In the languages of the Bible there were no numerals. Instead of “1, 2, 3, 4” they counted with “a,b,g,d” (g was in third place, not c,) The letter “A” could represent the sound “ahh..” or the number “1” depending on the context. The most famous example of this the “number of the beast” (Rev. 13: 17-18) Hollywood has had a field day with 666. People are so goofy about it they won’t live in a house at 666 anywhere street or call a phone number with the prefix 666. There are people who have no problem sneaking off to a hotel with another person’s spouse, just so they don’t stay in room 666.  And of course the History Channel has many learned disquisitions about the meaning of 666 which are all a bunch of pseudo-biblical hooey.

The Greek spelling of the words Nero Caesar is "Neron Kaisar". This in turn transliterates into Hebrew as “nrwn qsr”.  Those letters taken as numbers add up to 666.  So Nero was the beast and the book of Revelation isn’t talking about the end of the world, but the end of Jerusalem for which Nero was responsible.  Revelation 11,8 reads  “Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”  The city where their Lord was crucified was not Sodom nor Egypt, but Jerusalem.  In Revelation 18 the great city is called Babylon.  So clearly the city that is destroyed is not Rome as most people assume, or New York, or even Keokuk, Iowa. It was Jerusalem and it was destroyed in 70 AD. 

The book of Revelation is about the New and Heavenly Jerusalem which is the Church, the bride of Christ, as well as the heavenly city, no matter what the geniuses at the History Channel claim. And Ice Road Truckers???? What do they have to do with History? Where was I. Oh yes. Nero. Nero Caesar means 666 if you count the letters as numbers in Aramaic or Hebrew. Numbers in the Bible and in Nature have symbolic meanings and are very important.

So why seven days?  Because seven is a code word. It is closely related to the Hebrew word meaning to swear an oath. That means that whenever you see the word or concept “seven” in the Bible it has to do with God’s covenant. Thus, God made the world in seven days. I have no idea whether or not God made the world in seven periods of twenty-four hours. But most certainly, the Bible is trying to tell us that the very fact of the  existence of the universe is a sign of God’s covenant love for us.
Think about Noah and the Rainbow. Has it ever occurred to you that there are seven colors in the rainbow? Every time you see a rainbow, God is telling you that he loves you eternally and faithfully. So what is a covenant? It is the giving of self for self. A contract says I give to you so that you will give to me. It is the exchange of money goods or services. When the business is over, the contract is over.

There is a certain ancient profession that runs on contracts. A covenant says I give you my self that you might give me your self. It ends with death when there is no more self to give. Marriage is a covenant, or least it is supposed to be. That’s why divorce is so sad. You think you can get free of the old ball and chain (be it man or woman, he said inclusively) but you never really can. There is hurt and bitterness and custody battles and wounds that last for generations.  God is all about covenants. We want Him to be about contracts, “O Lord, gimme. And if you do, I’ll say these prayers, or go to church for a month or shave my head or.... In Jesus’ name, Amen” That’s why Sunday, God asks us not simply to go to church, but to swear a 7, I mean an oath. Psalm 50:5 “Gather my saints together to me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

If you’re Protestant you might go to church on Sunday, that is if you get something out of it, but you can pray at home too. It’s just as good. Isn’t it? That’s not what the Bible says in Hebrews 10:25, “Do not forsake our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhort one another; and so much the more, as you see the day drawing nigh.”

If you’re Catholic you go to the foot of the Cross, which is where Christ offers His Flesh and Blood for the redemption of the world. We call it Mass. You stand on Calvary’s hill with Mary, our blessed Mother. You do it at the beginning of every 7 day cycle because God wants to renew His Covenant, with an Oath written in the Blood of His Son. He wants to tell you that He loves you completely and wants you to swear your love to Him to the degree that a weak human being can. I eat His Flesh and drink His Blood and give Him my flesh and my blood to do with as he pleases. I don’t go to be entertained or even instructed. I go to Calvary to die with Him, and so doing, to live with Him. If you don’t go on Sunday (unless you are truly unable), the day of the Oath, you are simply not a Catholic.  

I could weep when I see what they have done with the rainbow. That sign of God’s covenant love is used by some as a sign that they will do as they please, no matter what the Lord has asked. The unbreakable bond between husband and wife is not just an entertainment or even a relationship. It is a sacrament. In our times there are people who want to make the Mass an entertainment, forgetting that it is the un-bloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of Calvary. It has been raining a lot recently. I wonder if Heaven is weeping too.

Rev. Know-it-all            

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