By now you have probably heard that in the Archdiocese of Washington on the weekend of Sunday June 27 the archbishop will lift the dispensation from the obligation. That is the obligation to attend Sunday Mass. I joke that for many Catholics until the issuing of the dispensation they had never even heard of the obligation. The Catechism cites canon law which states, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.” CIC 1247. On the other hand, there is always a dispensation from attendance for reasons of health, age, severe weather, or other impediments. The question is sometimes raised, do mature Christians really need to be ‘obliged’? Shouldn’t worship be an act of pure freewill, done because it is the right thing, not compelled by what seems to be a threat? The answer is, Yes. But just as it would be nice if children went to school because they want to, took their vitamins because it is good for them, and got to bed early because they needed the rest. But an ‘obligation’ indicates the importance of an act, and the danger entailed when neglected.
I like to say the Church upholds the highest ideals, but also understands human nature and its need sometimes to be motivated by more than the greater good. A young woman I know to have been a regular Mass-goer before Covid admitted to me with refreshing honesty that she’s been back for Christmas and Easter but out of laziness is taking advantage of the pass given by the dispensation. I suspect she is not the only one. As we trickle back slowly, some of us with a bit of trepidation, obligation or not, it is a good time to encourage one another. We come together in the worship, and holy communion with God and each other, so needed by each human soul.
St. Paul Parish, Damascus