Catholics really have a “thing” about going to Church on weekends. Of course, for anyone in their 60’s on up, it was drilled into us that missing Mass on Sunday was a mortal sin. I even remember arguments about how late into the Mass you could come and still have it be a valid Sunday Mass (I think you had to be there before the Gospel). Ditto for leaving early, though that was of lesser importance. I long ago lost count of how many confessions I’ve heard where “I missed Sunday Mass” was part of the confession. Nowadays, it’s parents and grandparents fretting about their children not going to Mass; the oldsters feel that seriously jeopardizes their chances for salvation and eternal life.
What we lost sight of so often is that for Jesus, that’s not the important thing. Yes, he was utterly faithful to his Jewish heritage and faithfully attended synagogue on the Sabbath. But neither Jesus nor St. Paul in his letters ever said anything about going to Mass. In actuality, that didn’t become mandatory until the 6th century. However, there is plenty of evidence that from the earliest days of Christianity people were encouraged to use the Sabbath as a day of rest and reflection, following the Second Commandment.
What counts for Jesus is caring for the needs of others. If people of whatever faith consistently do this, then chances are good they will be counted among the sheep described in the Gospel. Look at the Salvation Army, for example. They have no sacraments, no priesthood, no formal churches. Yet they are universally admired for the work they do.
It also helps to remember that we really never totally know the faith of another person. Only Jesus does. Even if the person has little or no faith, that does not stop Jesus from shepherding that person as described in the First Reading from Ezekiel.
Christ is King over all people, from the gentle sheep to the most irascible goat (goats are cute, but if you invade their space, watch out!!), from the saintliest saint to the most hardened sinner. All I can say is: “Thanks be to God!”
Be God’s smile for someone today!