How many times have we heard that command: it’s Sunday, it’s 8:30, and time to go to church. Basically, I grew up with that virtually every Sunday and had the idea that church was simply a place I had to go on Sunday. When church was over, we went home and the following Sunday came back.
Theologically speaking, the Church is not simply a building that we go to on Sunday; it is a community, a place, to which we belong and are a part of every day of the week. As Christians, we, as church, gather to celebrate the Holy Mass and to receive the Eucharist, not because we have to, but because we are part of the church. The central action of the Christian life if giving glory and praise to God, most completely during Mass. As Christians, we are part of a prayerful community striving in Christ, to put that faith into action under the direction of the Holy Spirit. From this perspective, we do not go to Church, we are the Church united in Christ.
As many of you know, I love Little House on the Prairie, that wonderful family friendly show that continues to teach us great lessons about the importance of family, community, and belonging. In Walnut Grove, everyone seemed to know and respect each other by name. Yes, there were those who were difficult to get along with, Mrs. Oelson for one, but in the end, when push came to shove, there was a mutual respect for everyone and even a person like Harriet or a child like Nellie were accepted for who they were. When plagues and illnesses swept the town, the healthy ones assisted the doctor in his duties. When there was a town function or celebration, the whole town came out to celebrate or participate. When a famine or depression hit, the town pulled together, and on Sunday the entire community gathered for Sunday services and prayed together as a community. The town was not simply a place the citizens went to at certain times; they were the town.
Church is much like that quaint little scene painted in Little House on the Prairie. We are one in Christ and a part of Christ’s body. Church is not simply a building we go to on Sunday; it is a community of faith and on Sunday the community gathers for Mass during which we celebrate the Eucharist, the source and summit of our faith. So, properly speaking, when we ask our family to get up on Sunday, we are inviting them to participate in the Eucharist together as a community of faith; we are inviting them to participate in the life of the community of the Church. After Mass is ended, we go forth as Christians to love and serve each other with our generous stewardship and we soon find the church, in fact, does extend beyond the walls of our beautiful church building. Church is not a place we go to, it is a family that we are part of in Christ.