In the 4th century, Roman Emperor Diocletian had made a decree that any Christians posessing Scripture, meeting to celebrate the Eucharist, or constructing any buildings that could be used for religious gatherings would be put to death.
In 304 A.D. a group of 49 Christians from Abitene (present-day Tunisia) were taken captive by the Roman empire for meeting privately to receive the Eucharist. When asked by their prosecutors why they would do something so foolish they responded “Sine dominico non possumus” translated – “Without Sunday we cannot live. ”
Without Sunday we cannot live. This was their faith. This was their reason. And this was the eventual cause of their death, as they were executed shortly after their arrest. I have the great fortune of being able to post on Sundays, the Lord’s day, and as it has been called the new Easter. Our gathering together on Sunday does not happen by chance, but it shares the same day that Christ rose from the dead. And Christ’s resurrection shared the same day as the first day of the week. And the “first day of the week” gets its distinction as it symbolizes the first day of creation (we sometimes confuse Sunday with sabbath – which could then confuse Sunday with the seventh day, this hopefully clears it up).
And so, every Sunday we meet around the table of the Lord. A table that we are Called to. It is God who invites us to the altar, to the Eucharist, and in attending Mass we are gratefully and thankfully accepting that invitation. And we know that this invitation is to more than just a religious observance, more than just a ritual of sorts – but rather it is an invitation to intimately consume the Body and Blood of our savior. It is in invitation to share in His death and in His resurrection. It is an invitation to reaffirm our path, to realize that we are a new creation in Christ, and we recall that as we celebrate the first day of the week. We are then sent off, encouraged to “Go in Peace to Love and Serve the Lord” because we now have had our fill. We have encountered Him in the most intimate way possible. We are to take that encounter beyond the four walls of our Church buildings and bring it to the world, a world that desperately needs Christ.
I think I feel particularly blessed to have read about these 49 precious martyrs on the day before the 4th of July. It will be very easy for all of us to not focus on Mass today. To think about our plans, where we’ll be, getting a house or a BBQ ready, and where we’re going to watch the fireworks. All of those are great things to do as we celebrate the freedoms that our country provides, but let us not now, nor never, forget that “Without Sunday we cannot live.” That without the freedom that Christ provides, there truly is no reason, no purpose, and no hope. Instead, Christ provides us with ultimate freedom, with ultimate peace, and with the ultimate hope that each and every one of our Sundays is simply a milestone on our way to an Eternity with him.