Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday Mass is a necessity

VIENNA, Austria, SEPT. 9, 2007 - Going to Sunday Mass is not just a rule to follow, but rather an "inner necessity," says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today during the Mass he celebrated at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, on the last day of his three-day apostolic trip to Austria.

About 40,000 people followed the Mass on large screens placed in St. Stephen's Square, since not all of the participants were able to be accommodated inside. Rain in the morning prompted organizers to distribute plastic raincoats to the faithful.

The Holy Father's homily centered on the mantra of the early Christian martyrs of Abitene: "Without Sunday we cannot live."

The Pontiff said: "Sunday has been transformed in our Western societies into the weekend, into leisure time."

Leisure time is certainly something good and necessary, especially amid the mad rush of the modern world. Yet if leisure time lacks an inner focus, an overall sense of direction, then ultimately it becomes wasted time that neither strengthens nor builds us up. "Free time requires a focus -- the encounter with him who is our origin and goal."

In the opening greeting, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, archbishop of Vienna, explained that there had been a movement in Austria to defend "Sunday from tendencies to empty this day of its meaning."

Recalling the example of the early Christians, Benedict XVI explained that for them Sunday Mass was not a "precept," but rather "an inner necessity."

"Does this attitude of the Christians of that time apply also to us who are Christians today?" the Pope asked.

The Holy Father answered: "Yes, it does, we too need a relationship that sustains us, that gives direction and content to our lives."

We too need access to the Risen One, who sustains us through and beyond death. We need this encounter which brings us together, which gives us space for freedom, which lets us see beyond the bustle of everyday life to God's creative love, from which we come and toward which we are traveling.

"But Sunday," said the Pontiff, also calls to mind the "the day of the dawning of creation." He said: "Therefore Sunday is also the Church's weekly feast of creation -- the feast of thanksgiving and joy over God's creation." At a time when creation seems to be endangered in so many ways through human activity, we should consciously advert to this dimension of Sunday too."

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