Unless you’re a Catholic – or so we`re told! I’ve struggled all my life with the teaching of Sunday obligation. As children we were taught that missing Sunday Mass was a mortal sin. If we did, we had to traipse off to confession on Saturday in order to receive communion the following day. The constant reminders of hell-fire and damnation resulted in painful scrupulosity – something that we Catholics are good at. Unhealthy scruples lead to obsessing about sin, and worrying that you will never be good enough for salvation and heaven’s rewards. Not a good thing for a young child. Not a good thing for any person.
As a young adult, I was finally able to let go of these anxieties. Slowly I discovered a more loving God, not one who was ready to condemn me for the slightest infraction. And I don’t want to let go of this God. So it really burns me to still hear priests preaching of Sunday obligation and mortal sins. Is it still a teaching of our church? It was time to do some Googling…..
Dang, apparently it is. But, some theologians are making a distinction between mortal and grave sins. And, of course, there is the question of culpability, knowledge, intention, etc. Sigh…..so much theological wrangling.
As a society we have really lost the sense of Sabbath with its call to rest from work and to nourish one`s spirit. Keeping the Sabbath holy is a way to acknowledge the God who created us, and to show gratitude for the many gifts we have received. And, for Catholics, we gather as a community to celebrate the Eucharist – the source and summit of our faith.
But what if the circumstances of your local parish have driven you to despair? What if you have been hurt, disillusioned, or just drifted away from regular mass attendance? Does this automatically make you a grave sinner?
Sunday Liturgy is a life-giving gift that needs to be cherished and celebrated and it should be promoted as such. How I wish we could let go of the language of obligations and mortal sins.