The pagan Romans had it all wrong; the arrest, torture and killing of the small Jewish sect known as Christians was not necessary to stamp it out. If they were serious about ending the heresy that threatened to dethrone Jupiter, Venus et al from the pantheon of heaven, they simply should have asked the Christian leaders to change the time they celebrated the Eucharist together. Christianity would have have been relegated to a footnote of history.
Pastors in many parishes has struggled with the optimal time to celebrate Mass to accommodate the most people, but there are those who say, “Father, whatever time works for you works for us.” A few weeks after making the change you receive a letter from the same person vowing to quit the Church, turn Jehovah Witness and withhold their monthly contribution of ten dollars unless the Mass is returned to the previous slot. One summer a few years ago I was accosted by an irate tourist who thought the Sunday Mass at 8 a.m. was not early enough to accommodate the flood of sightseers who descend on a small Nebraska city in July. This particular “flood” was the tourist, his wife and daughter. Not certain, but some people thought he took money out of the collection basket as it was passed around, probably for the trouble we caused him.
Not to make light of the sufferings or the martyrs, but imagine St. Lawrence as he struggled on the heated grill of torture. The Roman Soldier approaches with more wood for the fire and casually mentions that the service to Apollo begins at 11 a.m. instead of the Christian Eucharist at 10 a.m. St. Lawrence, suddenly inspired, looks up, “Why didn’t you say so, get me off this thing and praise Apollo!” Those martyrs just didn’t understand how well they had it; sure death is one thing, but to go to Mass at that time! What is the priest thinking? Father’s doing this just to make me angry. He is so callous and unfeeling!
Well, you have me there; there are times I’m callous and unfeeling (it’s called sin). Our modern culture of convenience sometimes blinds us to the sacrifices that Christians throughout history have accepted to follow Jesus. The Eucharist that we celebrate together is an important matter of time; not in the sense of the clock but of eternity.