Sunday Eucharist. That Sundays may be lived as the day on which Christians gather to celebrate the Risen Lord in the table of the Eucharist.
When he speaks about the Eucharist, Pope Benedict XVI often tells the story of the Abitene martyrs. It was a Sunday in 303 AD in the Tunisian village of Abitene. Forty-nine Christians gathered at the house of Octavius Felix to celebrate the Eucharist. They had gathered despite the edict of the Emperor Diocletian, who forbade such assemblies on pain of death. The authorities caught the 49 and took them to Carthage. When asked why they had disobeyed the Emperor’s orders, a certain Emeritus replied: “Sine dominico non possumus,” that is, “Without Sunday we cannot live.” The word for Sunday, dominico, also means gift of the Lord, and Emeritus was playing on the double meaning. Sunday for them was bound up with receiving the gift of the Lord, the risen Christ, in the Eucharist. “For these Christians,” said the Holy Father, “Sunday Eucharist was not a commandment, but an inner necessity. Without him who sustains our lives, life itself is empty. To do with out … would deprive life of its dignity and beauty.”
The Abitene Christians were horribly tortured and martyred because they could not separate their faith from their Sunday practice. This was their gift, to live and gain eternal life through the Eucharist. Gathering for Sunday Eucharist is no burden, though it is a commandment. The Catechism calls it the “foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.” But we gather so the Lord may give us his life, nourishing our entire being, body and soul. “How will we be able to live without him?” asked St. Ignatius of Antioch, another martyr of the early Church. We pray this month that we all may rediscover how essential the Sunday Eucharist is to our lives. We pray that Christians throughout the world each week will flock to Mass with this awareness in their hearts: “Without Sunday we cannot live.”
How can you make the Sunday Eucharist central and essential to your own life?
“He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56)
Spirit of Mission. That all the people of God, whom Christ has commanded to go and preach the Gospel to every creature, may diligently fulfill their missionary responsibility.
You and I may consider ourselves too young, too old, or too committed to be venturing into remote areas to preach the gospel. Surely others are better qualified for that kind of thing! Maybe so, but hear what our Holy Father asks of us. “Let it not be forgotten that the first and priority contribution that we are called to offer to the missionary action of the Church is prayer.” Where did Pope Benedict get that idea? Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Luke 10:2). The Pope suggests that every time we pray the Our Father we put an emphasis on “Thy Kingdom come,” recalling that God’s Kingdom comes by the missionary activity of the Church.
In his Message for last year’s World Mission Day, which will be celebrated this year on October 17, Pope Benedict appealed to every believer to create a “spiritual network of prayer” for evangelization. Not coincidentally, the Pope spoke directly to the “sick and the suffering.” He cited the “value of their mysterious and indispensable collaboration in the work of salvation.”
The Holy Father knows there is a special power in suffering if channeled into prayer for others. How do you channel your suffering into prayer? The approach we favor is the morning offering. The Apostleship of Prayer began with the frustration of Jesuit seminarians who had to delay their dream of being missionaries. They learned to offer up their frustration, their studies, and their sacrifices-all for the missions. So, too, each of us can offer our sufferings — as well as our joys — for the growth of God’s Kingdom. Offer yourself every day for the success of the Church’s mission on earth. Offer yourself that others near and far may come to know the great mercy of God. Are you struggling, hurting, and overwhelmed in your life? Give it all to God for the good of others, and you will find peace and joy in him.
How will you fulfill your responsibility to the missions this month?
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! (1 Corinthians 9:16)
Daily Offering Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
Prayer of the Month
Father, you will your Church to be the sacrament of salvation for all peoples. Make us feel more urgently the call to work for the salvation of all, until you have made us all one people. Inspire the hearts of all your people to continue the saving work of Christ everywhere until the end of the world. — From the Votive Mass for the Spread of the Gospel