It’s Sunday… again.
You know what that means? Going to church.
For many Catholics the “Sunday obligation” is a drag, a chore to get out of the way so that they can better enjoy their day off. But is that how we ought to feel?
St. Pope John Paul the Great didn’t think so. He said each Sunday is
Easter which returns week by week, celebrating Christ's victory over sin and death, the fulfillment in him of the first creation and the dawn of "the new creation" (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). It is the day which recalls in grateful adoration the world's first day and looks forward in active hope to "the last day", when Christ will come in glory (cf. Acts 1:11; 1 Th 4:13-17) and all things will be made new (cf. Rev 21:5). (Dies Domini, 1)
If you don’t feel like each Sunday is a mini holiday, here are five reasons why you ought to!
Who Wants to Go to Hell?
Let’s start with the most self-serving reason first, the basest motive for attending Mass each and every week, and then get into more noble reasons.
At the bottom, any believer in Christ, no matter how holy or how deluded by the strains of universalism running rampant in the post-modern West, must be chilled to the bone when reading the words of Christ,
“Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many…. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven… I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evil doers’.” (Matthew 7:13-23, NABRE)
Let’s face it. None of us want to hear “I never knew you” when we come face to face with Christ the Just Judge. The mere thought of it would be enough to keep a anyone awake at night if it wasn’t for the knowledge that Christ loves us as friends (cf. Jn 15:15) and that He desires all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tim 2:4).
Of course, God, in granting us free will has given us the final decision in the matter. The Catechism explains,
We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him… To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This… is called “hell." (1033)
Thus, we really don’t want to die in mortal sin, or commit any mortal sin at all. And missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin (for those who can attend),
On Sundays… the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass (Code of Canon Law, can. 1247)
Our first reason is simple enough. Deliberately missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin and, if left unrepented, will send your soul to Hell. Who wants that?
BONUS: Not only does attending Mass on Sundays keep you out of mortal sin, it also, even without Sacramental Confession, washes away venial sins, strengthening you in the battle against concupiscence and vice!
So You Say You Want a Revolution?
Now that we have the mercenary motive out of the way, let’s look at the worldly good that comes from regularly attending the Holy Mass.
The last words of the Mass, “Ite missa est!” (go the Mass has ended!) are a call for our worship to transform the way we live. Some have falsely accused Christianity of giving men an excuse for not transforming the world (Marx’s “opiate of the people” leaps to mind). The ending of the Mass puts the lie to such claims. Christians have historically changed the world more than any other group precisely because they have received the grace and more the commission to do at the Mass.
After the (final) blessing, the deacon dismisses the people. In fact, the dismissal gives the liturgy its name. The word "Mass" comes from the Latin word, "Missa." At one time, the people were dismissed with the words " Ite, missa est," meaning "Go, you are sent. The word " Missa" comes from the word " missio," the root of the English word "mission." The liturgy does not simply come to an end. Those assembled are sent forth to bring the fruits of the Eucharist to the world. (USCCB, The Structure and Meaning of the Mass).
BONUS: Loving God and loving neighbor are intimately connected and should never be pitted against one another. In fact, St. John tells us, “if anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is liar; for whoever does not love a brother he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20, NABRE). With this in mind, we can see the necessary connection between worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:24) and in transforming the world into a better place.
The Spirit of Vatican Two
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting the Second Vatican Council, calls the Eucharist
“the source and summit of the Christian life.” (CCC 1324; LG 11)
That’s right. Vatican Two didn’t abolish the need to attend Mass each week, rather it stressed the positive importance of coming to church. The Eucharistic celebration is the source of the Christian life in that everything we do should flow from our Sunday participation at Mass.
It also is the summit of the Christian life as everything we do ought to be ordered to achieving the invitation to the ultimate Sunday Mass… Heaven!
BONUS: Going to Mass on Sunday shouldn’t just be seen as an obligation, but also as an opportunity, an opportunity to be with the God who loves us!
For the Love of All That’s Holy
We all know that we must “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and the Mass is the holiest, highest form of prayer possible. At the Mass we, God’s creatures who are entirely dependent on Him for our continued existence and for every good that we possess, offer thanks (Greek, eucharistia) to God in the highest way possible, by uniting ourselves to the Supreme Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. Worship of God is rightly both an internal, private act and an external, public act. St. Thomas Aquinas explains,
We pay God honor and reverence, not for His sake… but for our own sake, because by the very fact that we revere and honor God, our mind is subjected to Him, wherein its perfection consists…. The human mind, in order to be united to God, needs to be guided by the sensible world, since “invisible things… are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,” as the Apostle says (Rom 1:20). (ST II, II, 81, 7)
Thus, worshipping God makes us holy, which is the whole point of our lives.
BONUS: You’ll never be closer to Christ in this life than at the moment you receive Holy Communion. As union with God, what the Church Father’s sometimes called “divinization,” is the ultimate aim of our lives, this moment is, objectively, the most blessed, most happy we can ever be on Earth!
If growing in holiest, gaining the grace to transform the world for the better, and avoiding the pit of Hell wasn’t enough, going to Mass is the closest thing to time travel man will ever experience. At Mass the separation between distant eras collapses. We are brought to the foot of the Cross on the first Good Friday. We are present in the Upper Room as Christ celebrates His Last Supper. We find ourselves among the crowds of Jerusalem crying out “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” and among the throng of angels surrounding the throne of God eternally intoning “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts.” Here we enter the Eternal Jerusalem where “night will be no more… for the Lord God shall give them light” (Rev. 22:5, NABRE). And here, we find ourselves among countless angels and saints - each of whom ardently desires that we enter into eternal communion with them. If that isn’t enough to get you out of bed or to turn off the game and head to the nearest Catholic church, I don’t know what would be!
BONUS: Do you have Evangelical friends that talk about the importance of a “personal relationship” with Jesus, or who might even secretly wish they could have been with Jesus during His earthly ministry? Invite them to Mass where Jesus yet trods the Earth just as substantially and literally as He did in first century Jerusalem!
To get the most graces out of your participation at Holy Mass, receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Just remember, before receiving Holy Communion make sure to examine your conscience and utilize the Sacrament of Reconciliation if you have committed any mortal sins. You’ll then be prepared to receive Our Lord not as “a condemnation unto punishment,” but as “a saving plea unto forgiveness,” as “a pledge of a blessed destiny.” (St. Thomas Aquinas). If you happen to find yourself unable to receive Our Lord on a particular Sunday, make a Spiritual Communion instead.
Pax et bonum.
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