Why Do We Have to Go to Church on a Sunday?

9 February 2010 Tuesday of the 5th Week in Ordinary Time
1 Kings 8, 22-30; Psalm 84; Mark 7, 1-13

The first reading is called, Solomon’s Prayer. He prayed it to the Lord during the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem. The prayer has a format:

First, adoration: The Lord is extolled as the one and only God in heaven and all the earth.
Second, thanksgiving: The Lord is thanked for the blessings already bestowed and for the future divine providence.
Third, petition: The Lord is asked to effect the remainder of the promise of continuity. Solomon requests the Lord that his sons will continue his dynasty.

The prayer has a political and theological effect. There were people who were against the building of the temple, because the presence of God is everywhere. Not one dwelling can contain the greatness of God.

On the other hand, there were people who wanted a singular place of worship. A physical space that is sacred and dedicated to God. It is a place where God is honored.

When people say, “you don’t have to go to church [the building] to pray; God is everywhere,” they’re correct. It is true that the majesty of God cannot be contained in a human-made building no matter how grand and how majestic. In Christian prayer, we are encouraged to reach this level of mysticism: that we are able to see God in all things.

However, we also need a building; a place dedicated to God. Not that God needs it. But we, people, need it. We are limited and finite, and a place to worship, gather and honor God greatly helps in the formation of our faith and our community. Remember, our faith is formed by the community also. It is nurtured and enriched by people. And when people come together in a specific place where God is worshipped, God is greatly honored. In the first reading, it is clear that God wanted people to worship Him there, in a particular area in the whole kingdom of Israel.

And that is why we do can pray everywhere; but we come on Sundays to gather as a community. And why do we make an effort to have it on a Sunday? Because people are free on Sunday as well as it is also the day of the Resurrection. The Sabbath was Saturday; but we believe that the day Jesus rose from the dead a new creation has been made. Therefore, the new “sabbath” became a Sunday.

But more importantly, Sunday becomes a day of obligation, because it is the time when the community can pray together. Think: Every Sunday, fellow Catholics (or many Christian communities), worship together all over the world. Regularly celebrating an important value such as faith forms a community. Just as a family is formed by the presence of each member in a get-together like a family dinner, a birthday, an anniversary; so is a community. By marking days for these celebrations, the ties that bind each person are strengthened.

And how do we celebrate? Take for example birthdays. We first acknowledge who the person is to us. Then, we thank them for the things they’ve done to our lives. And finally, we tell them that we will remain friends.

Nonetheless, we do can make the birthday celebrant important every day, not just during that particular day. However it is nice to have one special day, in a place that is meaningful and beautiful as the occasion. It’s just that: it is nice to have one.

So it is the same with prayer and worship. We adore God; we thank Him; and we ask for what we need.

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