Why Go To Mass?
by Steven R. Hemler
Not every Mass is going to be a great and deeply moving experience. Lifelong Catholics may have grown so used to the ritual that they aimlessly go through the motions and find their minds often wander. So, why bother going to Mass? Here is a list of the "Top 10" reasons:
Reason #10: To Follow the Commands of God, Jesus, and the Church
The third of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God is, "Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day." Christians observe Sunday as a day of worship and rest in order to honor the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Before his Crucifixion, Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in memory of me." When we celebrate the Mass, we repeat the Last Supper, as Jesus commanded us to do. In doing this, we remember his great act of love for us on the Cross - taking our sins upon himself so that we can live with him forever in heaven. Therefore, the Church teaches that we must fulfill the command of Jesus by attending Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2042) explains that attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is the first of the five Precepts of the Church. Willingly disobeying this precept is seriously sinful.
Reason #9: To Develop and Express Our Faith Commitment
Another reason to go to Mass is to develop the habit of worshiping and glorifying God. Human beings ordinarily develop by forming habits, some good and some bad. The discipline of worshiping God helps us to grow into being habitual "adorers of God," even when we do not feel like it. Like any other major commitment, our spiritual life involves discipline and restraint. Mass can sometimes be boring. Children and young people often wonder why the Mass can't be more "fun." But, if someone lives just to "have fun" they will most likely end up being selfish and unhappy. Focusing on our own selfish desires is empty and unfulfilling. It is only when we get out of ourselves and live for God and others that we truly find peace and happiness. Participation in the Mass is our duty as baptized Christians, but it is much more than that. It is an opportunity to actively express our commitment to Jesus Christ and to help fulfill our role in the Church.
Reason #8: To Gather Together in Christian Fellowship
Living a truly Christian life is not easy and a supportive community is vitally important. We cannot live as Christians just by ourselves. We are, rather, called to enter into relationships with others on our Christian journey through this life. Without fellow Christians, our faith would be stunted, fade away and die. It is while united in active celebration together at Mass that we will most powerfully experience the joy implicit in Jesus' saying "For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them." Active involvement in a broad range of parish activities, beginning with Mass, gives great meaning and support to our lives as Christians.
Reason #7: To Receive God's Help and Healing
It is hard to do difficult things alone. Following Jesus can be tough work. We go to Mass to receive the help we need to live the Christian life. Going to Mass gives us a sense that there are other people who are also struggling to live better lives and maybe we can all make it together. It's been said, "The Church is not a haven for saints, but a hospital for sinners." We don't go to Mass to proclaim our holiness, but rather we go to humbly seek God's help and healing. To change our lives - in Biblical terms, to repent, to convert - we need the help and support of others. At Mass, we join with others who are also trying to live the gospel and follow Jesus, and we share in the Spirit of Christ and we are empowered by that Holy Spirit.
Reason #6: To Celebrate With Song
Congregational singing has always been one of the most powerful ways to for the community to pray together. In the words of St. Augustine, "Singing is praying twice." Many find good liturgical music quite inspiring and an important part of worshipping God in a community of believers. But, liturgical music cannot be mistaken as entertainment. Music in worship is also a means towards prayer, contemplation and reflection. Good liturgical music is carefully selected to reinforce the central message of the Word of the Lord during Mass.
Reason #5: To Pray and Worship God Together
From the earliest days of Christianity, men and women have brought their deepest needs and desires to the table of the Lord, confident that they will be joined to Christ's great act of intercession before the Father. So, we can bring our deepest desires to the table of the Lord, confident they will be heard. St. John Vianney said of liturgical prayer, "Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that." So, we come together to join our prayers of Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (the acronym "A.C.T.S.") with the other members of our faith community. If we love God, we will want to spend some of our time with Him as He wants us to - giving ourselves to Him in worship.
Reason #4: To Receive the Word of God
During the Liturgy of the Word, we hear Christ's voice in the scripture readings. As Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states, "it is He himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church." We also hear Christ's voice in the homily, when the priest seeks to apply these inspired words to our lives. We know that if we listen in the right frame of mind, asking Jesus to open our hearts and minds, we will receive a message - a personal message.
Reason #3: To Commemorate Christ and Perpetuate His Sacrifice on the Cross
Whenever we gather together at Mass, we remember Christ. Furthermore, as the bishops said at Vatican II, "…it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is accomplished." At each Mass, God makes present and available to us, with lavish generosity, the saving power of the cross. Through the Mass, we offer God our praise, sorrow for our sins, and our deepest thanks for the gift of our redemption.
Reason #2: To Strengthen Us for Our Mission
The Mass provides us with a sense of why we are here, namely to love and serve the Lord and one another. When we hear the words, "Do this in memory of me," we hear God's voice not just challenging us to go to Mass but also challenging us to that self-giving love that the Mass celebrates. We are to live as Christ lived and act as Christ would act. The hard part of the Eucharist is not only believing that the bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, but the most difficult thing is accepting the challenge to "do this" - to live with that same self-giving love.
The Mass not only gives us a sense of what we ought to do, it also strengthens us for doing it. When we hear "The Mass is ended; go in peace" we know that Christ has come physically to the altar, then flows outward to the congregation, who carry Him out into the world. Our Lord does not send us out into the world as orphans. Rather, He equips us for the journey. He has formed us by teaching us through His Word, and He has fed us with His very Presence.
Finally, the #1 Reason to Go to Mass: To Be Filled with Jesus Christ
At the Consecration, the bread and wine, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Himself. He said this very plainly: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him."
Without physical food we will die physically. In the same way, without spiritual food we will die spiritually. By receiving Holy Communion we receive the graces needed to become more like Christ. It's been said, "We are what we eat." St. Augustine expressed this well when he said about Eucharist, "Believe what you receive. Receive what you believe. Become what you receive." This is why we are called to receive Holy Communion regularly and frequently.
Vatican II emphasized that the Mass is the "summit" toward which all our activities point and it is the "source" from which all our blessings flow. The Mass is the Lord giving Himself to us in His Word and in His Real Presence, and calling forth our self-giving in return. Going to Mass allows us to meet Christ within His community and to be with others whose faith makes a difference. This enables us to make the lived Presence of Christ - going forth and doing God's work in the world - the central element of our lives.
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Copyright © Steve Hemler. Steve Hemler has been involved in youth ministry, pro-life political activism and religious education. His articles have been published in America, Liguorian, Church, Modern Liturgy, Religion Teacher's Journal, Liturgical Catechesis, and National Review.