Modern technology brings new questions to our Catholic faith.
A frequent question is: “Can I fulfill my Sunday obligation by watching Mass on television?” The short answer is, NO.
However, if for some good reason, one cannot attend Mass, watching it on television is praiseworthy, but not obligatory. Many shut-ins find comfort in the televised Mass. Some say that they can hear better and see better, the music and the preaching are better. So why is a televised Mass not as authentic as Mass in the parish church? There are humorous answers: On TV, there is no collection; on TV you can mute the preacher.
The serious answer is in today’s gospel: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” We do not gather for a televised Mass. We do not participate. We are a spectator. Catholics do not simply attend Mass, we participate in Mass. We respond to the prayers and the readings, we join in the singing and the responses, we share the Eucharist and peace with each other. We are part of a group dynamic.
At a parish Mass, there is not only a psychological group dynamic there is also a spiritual group dynamic. By assembling in his name, we make the Lord present among us. “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in their midst.” That is the essential reason why we cannot attend Mass, or receive any of the Sacraments on television, over the telephone, or on-line. Gathering in His name makes the Lord present to those so assembled.
When the faithful assemble for the celebration of the Eucharist, the Lord is present in three ways: In Eucharist, in Scripture, and in the assembly. He is bodily present in the Eucharist, and we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. This bodily presence of Christ is the essential aspect of Eucharist.
However, the Lord is also present in the proclamation of the Scriptures. Reading the Word of God makes the Word of God present to the assembly. The Lord is present in the proclamation of His Word.
The third presence of the Lord, the focus of today’s gospel, is effected by the assembling of the faithful. “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I in their midst.” The Lord is made present by each member of the congregation as they assemble in His name. This third presence of the Lord, the assembly of the faithful, is vital in our age. One of the negative characteristics of our age is isolation. This cultural trend can erode faith.
Many of us today are not concerned whether our attendance at church will benefit others, or even if it will give glory to God. We ask only, “What will I get out of it?” Part of the “me” generation.
When we absent ourself from the Eucharistic assembly, as when we miss a family celebration -a wedding, a funeral, a reunion -we not only deprive ourself of an enriching experience, but we lessen that experience for others.
We have all realized that when, for example, Uncle Joe in the military could not attend grandpa’s funeral, when grandma was hospitalized during the family reunion when Aunt Jane deliberately skipped her niece’s wedding.
At a Eucharistic assembly, the presence of each one makes Christ present to all, and the absence of any one lessens the presence of Christ for others.
Modern technology dispenses information efficiently and rapidly. It does not make communication more human or more personal. Computerized telephone services remind us of that every day. “Press one, press two . . .”
Our Catholic faith is both a personal faith and a community faith. Our greatest experience of this is when we assemble for the Eucharist. “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.”
Lord, let your loving presence gathers us together as one family nourished by Your body and blood. May our souls continue to seek you with eagerness in everything we do. Amen