DAILY CATHOLIC    FRI-SAT-SUN     July 31-August 2, 1998     vol. 9, no. 149

THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
    INTRODUCTION
          The Apostolic Letter below Dies Domini was released Tuesday, July 8, 1998 by the Holy Father and deals with reasserting Sundays as God's day when we return to family interests and reserve this sacred day for rest and charity as God intended. The Pope cites Church history and earlier encyclicals in showing the course all Catholics near the end of the millennium must follow in returning a semblance of reverence and respect for God's Laws. He calls on all employers to be understanding fo the need to give back to God His day. Below is the fourteenth of multiple parts that will include the entire 104 page letter over the next several weeks.

APOSTOLIC LETTER DIES DOMINI OF THE HOLY FATHER JOHN PAUL II TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY AND FAITHFUL OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ON KEEPING THE LORD'S DAY HOLY

    CHAPTER FOUR: DIES HOMINIS Sunday: Day of Joy, Rest and Solidarity part five

    A day of solidarity

    69. Sunday should also give the faithful an opportunity to devote themselves to works of mercy, charity and apostolate. To experience the joy of the Risen Lord deep within is to share fully the love which pulses in his heart: there is no joy without love! Jesus himself explains this, linking the "new commandment" with the gift of joy: "If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept the Father's commandments and remain in His love. I have told you this that My own joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 15:10-12).

    The Sunday Eucharist, therefore, not only does not absolve the faithful from the duties of charity, but on the contrary commits them even more "to all the works of charity, of mercy, of apostolic outreach, by means of which it is seen that the faithful of Christ are not of this world and yet are the light of the world, giving glory to the Father in the presence of men". (113)

    70. Ever since Apostolic times, the Sunday gathering has in fact been for Christians a moment of fraternal sharing with the very poor. "On the first day of the week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn" (1 Cor 16:2), says Saint Paul referring to the collection organized for the poor Churches of Judaea. In the Sunday Eucharist, the believing heart opens wide to embrace all aspects of the Church. But the full range of the apostolic summons needs to be accepted: far from trying to create a narrow "gift" mentality, Paul calls rather for a demanding culture of sharing, to be lived not only among the members of the community itself but also in society as a whole. (114) More than ever, we need to listen once again to the stern warning which Paul addresses to the community at Corinth, guilty of having humiliated the poor in the fraternal agape which accompanied "the Lord's Supper": "When you meet together, it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the Church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?" (1 Cor 11:20-22). James is equally forceful in what he writes: "If a man with gold rings and in fine clothing comes into your assembly and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, 'Take a seat here, please', while you say to the poor man, 'Stand there', or, 'Sit at my feet', have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?" (2:2-4).

    71. The teachings of the Apostles struck a sympathetic chord from the earliest centuries, and evoked strong echoes in the preaching of the Fathers of the Church. Saint Ambrose addressed words of fire to the rich who presumed to fulfil their religious obligations by attending church without sharing their goods with the poor, and who perhaps even exploited them: "You who are rich, do you hear what the Lord God says? Yet you come into church not to give to the poor but to take instead". (115) Saint John Chrysostom is no less demanding: "Do you wish to honour the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk only then to neglect him outside where he suffers cold and nakedness. He who said: 'This is my body' is the same One who said: 'You saw me hungry and you gave me no food', and 'Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me' ... What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices, when he is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger, and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well". (116)

    These words effectively remind the Christian community of the duty to make the Eucharist the place where fraternity becomes practical solidarity, where the last are the first in the minds and attentions of the brethren, where Christ Himself through the generous gifts from the rich to the very poor - may somehow prolong in time the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. (117)

    72. The Eucharist is an event and programme of true brotherhood. From the Sunday Mass there flows a tide of charity destined to spread into the whole life of the faithful, beginning by inspiring the very way in which they live the rest of Sunday. If Sunday is a day of joy, Christians should declare by their actual behaviour that we cannot be happy "on our own". They look around to find people who may need their help. It may be that in their neighbourhood or among those they know there are sick people, elderly people, children or immigrants who precisely on Sundays feel more keenly their isolation, needs and suffering. It is true that commitment to these people cannot be restricted to occasional Sunday gestures. But presuming a wider sense of commitment, why not make the Lord's Day a more intense time of sharing, encouraging all the inventiveness of which Christian charity is capable? Inviting to a meal people who are alone, visiting the sick, providing food for needy families, spending a few hours in voluntary work and acts of solidarity: these would certainly be ways of bringing into people's lives the love of Christ received at the Eucharistic table.

    73. Lived in this way, not only the Sunday Eucharist but the whole of Sunday becomes a great school of charity, justice and peace. The presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his people becomes an undertaking of solidarity, a compelling force for inner renewal, an inspiration to change the structures of sin in which individuals, communities and at times entire peoples are entangled. Far from being an escape, the Christian Sunday is a "prophecy" inscribed on time itself, a prophecy obliging the faithful to follow in the footsteps of the One who came "to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to captives and new sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19). In the Sunday commemoration of Easter, believers learn from Christ, and remembering His promise: "I leave you peace, my peace I give you" (Jn 14:27), they become in their turn builders of peace.

    MONDAY: Part Fifteen of Dies Domini: Chapter Five, DIES DIERUM Sunday: the Primordial Feast, Revealing the Meaning of Time part one.

      FOOTNOTES:
      • (113) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, 9.

      • (114) Cf. also Saint Justin, Apologia I, 67, 6: "Each of those who have an abundance and who wish to make an offering gives freely whatever he chooses, and what is collected is given to him who presides and he assists the orphans, the widows, the sick, the poor, the prisoners, the foreign visitors - in a word, he helps all those who are in need": PG 6, 430.

      • (115) De Nabuthae, 10, 45: "Audis, dives, quid Dominus Deus dicat? Et tu ad ecclesiam venis, non ut aliquid largiaris pauperi, sed ut auferas": CSEL 322, 492.

      • (116) Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, 50, 3-4: PG 58, 508-509.

      • (117) Saint Paulinus of Nola, Ep. 13, 11-12 to Pammachius: CSEL 29, 92-93. The Roman Senator is praised because, by combining participation in the Eucharist with distribution of food to the poor, he in a sense reproduced the Gospel miracle.


July 31-August 2, 1998       volume 9, no. 149
THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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