Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. It is a day that, for many, represents the holiest day of the year.
As a kid, it was a day to don a new outfit that was more important to my mother than I. In the weeks coming up to Easter, we would be implored to give up something for Lent. I was never quite good enough at that. Nevertheless, I had my own rituals.
As a college student, I would listen to Jesus Christ Superstar as part of my devotion, but I also attended Holy Thursday and Good Friday services as well as Mass on Easter Sunday.
For Holy Week in 1971, I vowed to make a special sacrifice. I fasted for the last three days. Well, I had my “Last Supper” on Thursday and did not eat any food at all on Good Friday or Holy Saturday. I went to Mass on Easter Sunday, received communion and, went home to break my fast with a well-represented breakfast.
While my mother was preparing the eggs and bacon and brewing the coffee, I had a nice piece of her famous cheesecake. This would not have been Christ’s first task on Easter Sunday but I had done my penance and cheesecake was my salvation.
I did no such fasting this year, but I did forego eating meat on Good Friday…which reminds me of another story.
My sister Maureen related this tale to me a few years ago.
It seems back in the day when meant had to be abstained on all Fridays by edict of the Pope, Maureen witnessed something that shocked me when she told me.
One Thursday evening, my mother was preparing my father’s lunch for the next day. Maureen was beside herself when she asked my mother what on earth she was doing.
“I’m fixing your father’s lunch.”
“But momma, you’re making ham sandwiches!” (One sandwich was never enough.)
“So I am.”
“But tomorrow is Friday!!!”
“Luv, your father works very hard and needs a good lunch to get him through the day. Not eating meat on Friday is a man-made rule and was never demanded by Jesus.”
So it was that my mother became the first cafeteria Catholic.
Now the nuns and priest of that day, probably late 1940s, would have deemed my mother’s actions as sinful if not heretical. But Jesus wouldn’t.
She understood that. She understood that Jesus was above petty rules and regulations.
Never once did you read Jesus, saying that it was a sin to eat meat at any time.
Never once did you read Jesus saying that you had to go to church every Sunday.
In fact, the only times I remember Jesus in a church was when he was lecturing the priests about God’s law and when he kicked the gamblers out of His Father’s House.
The point is that giving up meat and going to mass are wonderful traditions and should be encouraged as they provide a focus on living a good life. But when going to church can put you or others in danger due to an extremely contagious disease, well Jesus wants us to stay home, and all you have to do is to read the Bible to know that.
Tomorrow there will be many chances to attend mass for me. I can either listen to it on SiriusXM radio or on WFUV. Mass will be available on television as well and on YouTube.
Would it be better to attend in person? Of course.
The splendor and the beauty of the Mass are always better in person, but we have a good reason to forego that this year.
Let’s just hope that this will be the last Easter we have to pray in isolation.
Happy Easter everyone.