by Fr. Tom Tank
Not long ago while visiting with a Catholic, I was taken back by the question, “Why should I go to Mass?” My assumption is that Catholics know why they should go to Mass, but maybe I assume too much. Hence this little piece Why go to Mass? Every individual sharing in the Mass has his/her own reasons for doing so. Here are some that deserve some consideration.
God gives us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Is it too much to give Him an hour of our time? God gives us life itself and all our talents and abilities. Isn’t it only right to say THANK YOU by sharing our time and ourselves with God?
We lead hectic lives, running in a thousand directions. What’s the integrating thread that keeps it all together? What reminds us what is really important in life and what may be interesting, but superficial? Taking time to draw back and being with God in prayer helps maintain balance and perspective and helps us keep on track.
♦ COMMUNITY PRAYER
Some people say that they can pray better by themselves alone in the woods. Sometimes I can too. But that doesn’t take away the need to join with the community in prayer and worship. In the midst of a world that focuses upon the individual as the center of it all, we need to remember that we are creatures and children of an all-loving God. We are part of a community of faith that communicates Christ to us and needs us to be active members of Christ’s body. The Mass is the most perfect form of worship because it is my prayer in union with the prayer of others that is joined withbest prayer ever offered – the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. No other form of prayer can take the place of Christ’s perfect gift of Himself and His sacrifice represented in the Eucharist.
Each of us carries with us some woundedness, hurts from others or our own sinfulness. We need forgiveness and the strength to forgive others. We need God’s power to flow into our lives healing and renewing us in the spirit of Christ. The Mass makes real the healing and strengthening presence of Christ whom we experience in Holy Communion as our Brother, our Savior and our God.
We lead by the example we give more than by the words that we say. We can tell our children that we believe in God and are followers of Jesus, but if we don’t take time for God and show our fidelity to Him in prayer and example, our words will be hollow and our example weak. Our young people learn to value what their parents value. What are we sharing with our children?
We have a serious moral obligation to worship God through active participation in the Eucharist. To neglect this wonderful prayer and to deny ourselves the grace of the Mass is seriously sinful and is in a way like spiritual suicide. We have the serious obligation to make use of the means that God has given us to grow in holiness through union with Christ in the Mass and the Sacraments.
We need Christ. We need a Savior. We need to know that our life is of value and worth both here on earth and eternally. We need Christ to keep us going in the right direction with what’s really important in life. We need a personal relationship with Christ so that His word speaks to us and His presence is felt in our heart. Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. He gives his very self to us in Holy Communion. To be embraced by His loving presence is such a wonderful and awesome gift. Why deny oneself Someone so great and so loving?
♦ GOD’S COMMANDMENT / JESUS’ REQUEST
“Keep holy the Lord’s Day” is the third commandment. What better way to do so than to join in the perfect sacrifice, the perfect prayer of Jesus? Jesus enjoins us “Do this in memory of Me!” Ultimately we go to Mass as an expression of our desire to really love God with all our heart, soul and mind and that in turn helps us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
On the other hand, I often hear why people don’t go to Mass. I imagine the reasons are as individual as the person, but here are some common ones.
♦ I DON’T GET ANYTHING OUT OF IT
Who ever said you were supposed to? Do we only do something because we personally get something out of it? We receive from God every moment of every day; is it too much to do something for God without expecting an immediate return? We go to Mass to worship God, to thank Him, to draw closer to Him, not to get something more from God who already gives us everything.
♦ TOO MANY HYPOCRITES
Church is not a health spa for saints, but a hospital for sinners. Yes, we have hypocrites at Church. Can I say that I have never acted hypocritically? I wish! We go to Mass because we are sinners and need God’s grace and strength to live better lives. If no sinners went to Mass, the church would be empty. Some people stay away from Mass because they have a hard time with accepting or living some of the teachings of Jesus and the Church. We need to remind ourselves we are all on a journey. None of us has it all together yet, but we need to be present and open to Christ who will show us the way and give us the strength.
♦ IT’S BORING
For people used to fast action and constant entertainment, the Mass seems boring. As one young person put it “It’s the same old miracle every time.” Is it the ‘same old’ or is it the ‘miracle’ that we experience? The Mass is not entertainment. It is prayer and worship. We get out of something what we put into it. Consciously entering into the miracle of Christ’s love present in the Eucharist will engage our mind and heart, indeed our entire life.
♦ I’M TOO BUSY
Most of us are over extended. We have too many commitments and responsibilities. Yet can we really be too busy for God? Is an hour a week too much to give? If we plan our Sunday around Mass rather than trying to fit Mass into a crowded weekend, we will never be too busy for the Lord. If we don’t go to Mass, how much time do we really devote to prayer on our own?
♦ I’M LAZY
Yes, most of us are subject to laziness. It’s part of original sin and we can let ourselves develop some pretty lazy habits. Laziness can lead to weakening and even loss of faith. Just as we need to exercise our bodies to keep them strong, we also need to practice faith in order to strengthen it. The best remedy to laziness is just simply DO IT!
♦ I FEEL GUILTY
When we are not living the life that we know we should, we feel guilty. Guilt needs to be resolved rather than denied. We have to face our guilt and seek forgiveness and search for a better way of living. The Mass will challenge us and remind us of our guilt, but it can also bring us healing forgiveness and new life.
♦ I AM ANGRY
Unfortunately some have been disappointed and even hurt by the Church or its representatives. Just as Jesus teaches us to seek forgiveness, He calls us to be forgiving. Past hurts because of the human side of the Church shouldn’t keep us from experiencing its divine side wherein God shares his very self with us. St. Paul enjoins us “forgive as the Lord has forgiven you”.
♦ I DON’T NEED IT
“I don’t need the Mass to be a good person. I can be kind to others without going to church.” That may be true, but being a nice and kind person is not the essence of being a Christian. Loving God above all things is. How am I really showing my love of God above all if I don’t take any time for Him? And by loving Him we will have greater strength to follow the second commandment, to love our neighbor.