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Fr Benjamin Saliba: Let’s reclaim Sunday for God

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As part of a monthly formation series, parishioners from St John the Baptist church in Bonnyrigg Heights attended a talk by assistant priest Fr Benjamin Saliba on prayer and the holy sacrifice of mass on 28 March. Photo: Mat De Sousa
As part of a monthly formation series, parishioners from St John the Baptist church in Bonnyrigg Heights attended a talk by assistant priest Fr Benjamin Saliba on prayer and the holy sacrifice of mass on 28 March. Photo: Mat De Sousa

By Fr Benjamin Saliba

As a newly-ordained priest I am quickly learning that without a balanced lifestyle it can all fall apart very quickly. Not that it has—although at times it feels very close.

I am very thankful for my seminary formation and training which taught me balance is necessary for all things in life.

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What seminary doesn’t prepare you for are the day-to-day demands of ministry. Contrary to popular belief, after father says Mass in the morning he isn’t free for the rest of the day.

There are days where I skip meals, forfeit exercise, and even play catch-up with my prayers, not praying until I’m way too tired at the end of the day.

Ministry is rewarding and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but if I am not looking after myself, I won’t last too long, reducing what God has ordained me to do to lifeless and unenthusiastic service.

I share this with you because all of us of tend to busy ourselves without taking the time for self-reflection and readjustment. The thing that always seems to suffer is the prayer life.

It is so much easier to watch “The Chosen” on repeat, spend countless hours watching sport, or even just read a book to unwind at the end of a day.

Why is prayer so hard? Is it because we can’t hear God? Perhaps we think he doesn’t listen anyway, so what’s the point?

A family prays during Mass in the Church of St Catherine in Bethlehem,Israel. Photo: CNS, Debbie Hill
A family prays during Mass in the Church of St Catherine in Bethlehem,Israel. Photo: CNS, Debbie Hill

All the time, the simple answer is lack of trust. We worry ourselves, stress about the deadline, chase the promotion, make sure the house is in order. The family puts on their happiest faces to look good in front of others.

All these attitudes ultimately say that God is not in control because I will not allow him to be—I am in control. The good news is that all of us can change our ways and the change I want to propose to is this: reclaim Sunday.

Sunday is a day to give thanks to God, to go to Mass (yes, we go to Mass on Sundays—unless you are ill or housebound, the livestream is no longer sufficient) and have God and family as the focus. It is the starting point for trust in God.

I wasn’t born in a collar, I once thought Mass was boring and a struggle to get to at the best of times, however once I discovered its beauty and true meaning it became a part of my life that I couldn’t live without—it is how we properly worship God.

Once you go to Mass, you are more inclined to carry through the day of worship and rest in its fullness. It is possible to have a family day without shopping, devices, and countless hours in front of a television.

The only thing stopping us from reclaiming Sundays is trust. Trust in God, come back to Mass, focus on family, pray before you eat, instil in your children the greatest gift you can give them, the gift of faith.

It is contagious! If you get excited for Mass, your children will get excited. If you think the community is a little bland, or the Mass is boring, use your gifts and talents by offering your help to the priest and learning more about our highest form of worship.

You will notice the difference when you start to reclaim Sunday. Peace, patience, compassion, and the most beautiful gift of them all—the precious body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist will all be encountered—something and someone you can’t get anywhere else.

Fr Benjamin Saliba is assistant priest at St John the Baptist Catholic church in Bonnyrigg Heights

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