Special Intentions on Sundays

Many parishes are accustomed to having a special Mass to celebrate Anzac Day. What happens when April 25 falls on a Sunday as it does this year?
According to our liturgical calendar, no solemnity or commemoration can take precedence over a Sunday of the Easter season. Therefore the Anzac Day Mass cannot be celebrated this year as April 25 is the 4th Sunday of Easter. The prayers and scriptural readings of what is sometimes referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday” take precedence. A look at these texts, however, show that they are very appropriate for this special day of remembrance.
The alternative opening prayer uses phrases from the well known and loved Psalm 23, the psalm of the day: “though your people walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should they fear”.
The reading from the letter of Peter speaks of Christ’s suffering for others and leaving an example for others to follow. These words remind us of those who have suffered in wars. Many will find comfort in the Gospel reading from John in which Jesus reassures us that “anyone who enters through me will be safe: they will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture”.
The commemorative of Anzac Day can also be suitably acknowledged in the liturgy through the music, the homily and the prayers of intercession of the Easter Mass.
The difficulty posed to liturgists when special days fall on a Sunday will arise again on Mothers Day which is the 6th Sunday of Easter. In fact parishes are bombarded with material for special collections and causes on most Sundays of the year. While our Sunday worship cannot be divorced from daily life and the realities of the world, we cannot let special intentions – even Anzac Day and Mothers Day – take over the liturgy.
The 1998 Apostolic Letter Dies Domini states this clearly in its first paragraph:
“Sunday recalls the day of Christ’s resurrection. It is Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christs victory over sin and death, the fulfilment in him of the first creation and the dawn of the ‘new creation’.”
If a particular theme or appeal overshadows the character of the Sunday Mass, or takes precedence over the prayers and readings, then a disservice is done both to the liturgy and the community.
There are several ways in which a special theme, intention and appeal can be recognised whilst respecting the integrity of Sunday eucharist. It may be referred to in the Introductory Rites or the homily, and be the subject of one or two petitions in the Prayers of the Faithful. There may be appropriate hymns which can be included in the liturgy.
While many of these themes or intentions may well be “worthy causes”, the Church assembles for eucharist on Sunday to celebrate something much more profound and fundamental – the paschal mystery.


Elizabeth Harrington