Gospel For Today


Paul and Barnabas continued on from Perga
and reached Antioch in Pisidia.
On the sabbath they entered the synagogue and took their seats.
Acts 13:14

Many of you know I am on the road this weekend.  While I like certain things about travelling – seeing new places, eating different foods, meeting new people – there are also aspects of travelling I don't like.  I suppose I am a homebody at heart; I like my own space where I can be comfortable, I like my routine.  Most of all I like being around my loved ones.  

So when I travel I like to take a bit of home with me.  Many people do.  I know some who always travel with their own pillow because they can just never get comfortable on hotel pillows.  We take our magazines or books to read.  We take along our own music; and of course our laptops and tablets so we can stay connected on email, Facebook, etc.  

Then there are those things we simply cannot be without.  We take care to pack a toothbrush, whatever vitamins or medications we take each day, shampoo and soap, etc.  We would never dream of being on the road without these things because we know that travelling is no excuse not to take care of ourselves.  We may be taking a vacation from our jobs or from school, but we cannot take a vacation from our health and hygiene.  So when we travel, we plan ahead to make sure we have everything we need for the journey.

This applies to our spiritual health, as well.  You don't stop saying your daily prayers simply because you are away from home.  And of course the highest form of prayer that we do as Catholics is the Mass.  When we attend Mass we do not simply pray alone but we join in the whole Church as she prays to God as a united people.  We offer God the most perfect offering of His Son in the Eucharist.  And we do this not only with those fellow Christians sitting in the pews around us, but the those worshiping at every Mass around the globe, past, present and future.

Our participation in Mass is so important that the Church places us under a serious obligation to attend on Sundays, the Lord's Day.  How serious is the obligation?  It is not absolute – legitimate reasons for missing Mass include illness, taking care of someone who is ill, and travelling.  

Travelling?  Yes, only under certain conditions.  If you are travelling in an area where it is physically impossible for you to make your way to a Catholic Mass on Sunday, then your obligation is lifted.  But simply being away from home is not itself an excuse.  There is no "vacation" from being part of the Body of Christ.

I stumbled upon an article on this subject recently from Michelle Arnold.  She is a staff apologist for Catholic Answers in San Diego, CA.  She often deals with variations of this question: "Is it a sin to miss Mass if I am on a cruise?  If I am camping?  If I am on vacation, etc?"  

In the article she relates two different questions she received on the same day.

The first question came in from a young woman who lived in a sparsely Catholic area in Europe. She wanted to attend Mass on an upcoming holy day of obligation, but her only option to get there was to buy a train ticket she could ill afford. She wasn't asking if she could skip Mass; she was asking how to get to Mass when she was facing a real choice between train fare and food.

The second question was from a gentleman who was spending a weekend in my hometown of San Diego, California. He and his wife had family here, so they made regular visits and thus knew the city well. But this time the schedule was crammed. Between a baseball game, golf, and dinner with the in-laws, he just couldn't seem to find a good time to go to Mass. He skipped, and his question was whether or not his obligation to visit family had been sufficient cause to miss Mass.

Juxtaposing these two questions was like switching on a light. It is the difference between the desire to go to Mass while impeded from doing so and the choice to give more weight to lesser obligations than is given to the Mass. The first inquirer really wanted to go to Mass but was facing significant hurdles in getting there; the second inquirer seemed willing to go to Mass if doing so didn't interfere with more desirable activities.

She writes that the bottom line is this:  it is not that hard for most people to get to Mass most of the time.  I agree with her.  The key is to make Mass – and by extension your worship of God – a priority when you schedule your travel itinerary.  Don't make it an afterthought that you try to squeeze in around everything else you'd like to do.  
Today's Gospel reading speaks of Christ as a shepherd.  Those of you who know me and my recent foray into sheep breeding (two lambs born in our flock thus far!) may have been expecting me to wax elegant about shepherding and sheep this week.  I admit, it was tempting.  I will say this, though.  Sheep never take a vacation from being sheep.  They always need a shepherd, especially when they are in an unfamiliar pasture.
I may be a shepherd myself at home with my wee flock; but whether I am home or on the road I am always one of His sheep.  And this Sunday morning I'll be right there with the other sheep, listening to His voice.  I may be in different pews, surrounded by strange faces, but that's still my flock.  It's where I belong.
Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me."

John 10:27

WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723