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Ten Reasons to go to Sunday Mass, as well as daily Mass.

 

The following was taken from a Catholic Update piece by Leonard Foley, O.F.M. I have made edits that take the emphasis off the first person as well as a few others that I believe improve the piece.

  1. Why go to Mass? Because I 'owe' God.
  2. Why go to Mass? Because I believe in Jesus
  3. Why go to Mass? Because I ought to be a 'live' member of a community.
  4. Why go to Mass? Because it's worth the cost.
  5. Why go to Mass? Because I want to be a contributing member.
  6. Why go to Mass? Because I have a body.
  7. Why go to Mass? Because I have sinned.
  8. Why go to Mass? Because I need energy.
  9. Why go to Mass? Because I need roots and a future.
  10. Why go to Mass? Because I was made to praise.

By Leonard Foley, O.F.M. with edits by Mike Humphrey

1. Why go to Mass? Because I 'owe' God.

Not a very appealing reason, I admit, but it's rock solid. God, I hope we all believe, is "behind it all." Many, if not all, people believe that God not only created everything, but that he is The One that keeps on keeping everyone and everything in existence. I will be alive one second, or one hour from now, only if God keeps on keeping me alive.

It's something like being a baby in a mother's womb. If nourishment from the mother stops, the baby dies. Not only in our case, but also in the case of the stars and oceans and mountains and caterpillars and computers - we are all like unborn babies as far as needing God's creative and sustaining power is concerned, no matter how mature and independent we think we may be psychologically.

God not only does this, he does it with love. He's not like some engineer running a whole dimly-lit factory of robots. God — mystery of mysteries — who started everything because he wanted children he could love, and who could love him in return. As St. John says, "God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16).

But someone might say,

"I believe that, but it doesn't compel me to go to Mass. Why can't I just love God by a leading a good life, and in my own heart?"

For an answer, let's move to the next point

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2. Why go to Mass? Because I believe in Jesus

To put it very briefly, because I believe that Jesus is God's will for me. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

Christ's whole earthly life - his words and deeds, his silences and sufferings, indeed his manner of being and speaking - is Revelation of the Father. CCC 516

Because Our Divine Lord was sent by the Father, and He is one with the Father, theologically He is consubstantial with the Father, or "of one substance", His words, commands and actions mean something for me and are for my own good — e.g. for my salvation.

Through Oral and Written Tradition dating back to 33AD, we know that, by the grace of God, we can enter into Jesus' Life, Death, Resurrection, and Spirit. This is what He desires for us. He gave us a very definite way of entering into this salvation: Jesus told us to continue celebrating the Last Supper. That divine meal which IS Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity; His total gift of Himself; His absolute trust in His Father (in the dark, on the cross); and his complete glory and power as the Risen Savior.

No matter how lively or dull the Mass is "on the outside," how inspiring or flat, it is the way Christians are called to fulfill Jesus' command at the Last Supper:

"Do this in memory of me." (Luke 22:19)

Do what? He was celebrating the Passover supper, which included readings from Scripture, and the sharing of bread and wine. He took bread, gave thanks to his Father, broke the bread (a sign of friendship, community) and gave it to his friends and said,

"Take this and eat" (Matthew 26:26). "This is my body, to be given for you" (Luke 22:19)

He took the wine that was part of the Passover meal and said,

"All of you must drink from it...for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, to be poured out in behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:27-28).

The Mass, the Eucharist, is the Last Supper, the death and resurrection of Jesus, his Spirit made present to us, so that we can enter into it and be alive with God's life. When we go to Mass, we are not re-sacrificing Our Lord. No, because Jesus was NOT a human person. He was a divine person. When we go to Mass we enter into his ONE-TIME death on Calvary, and partake in his Divine nature .... REALLY!!!

This is made present to those who gather around Jesus' altar table today. Can anyone who believes in Jesus ignore this central act, the obvious command? Sorry. That makes it sound like a duty. Rather, in approaching the Eucharist I want to share the eagerness of Jesus, who said:

"I have longed/desired to eat this Passover with you before I die." (Luke 22:15)

In short: I want to be with you. I want you with me. I want to give you-life.

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3. Why go to Mass? Because I ought to be a 'live' member of a community.

We live in a very mobile society (unfortunately, I think), and people may live in five or six parishes in their lifetime. Even people who don't move, but live in a city where there are many Catholic churches, may attend one parish after the other, shopping for what pleases them.

Is this wrong? I'm not going to deny that sometimes things can get pretty bad in a parish. The priest may be dictatorial, the choir terrible, the people unfriendly, the collections frequent and the building poorly heated. I'll admit that things may sometimes become so bad that people can rightly choose to join another parish where they can worship without appalling obstructions. But apart from such serious cases, "parish hopping" seems to prevent one of the essentials of Christianity: Belonging to a community. Not just the big, worldwide Catholic Church, but YOUR local church; that body of believers, that parish, where the Lord wishes you to minister and evangelize with others in the parish, as well as others in the town.

  • The Mass is not like a movie, where hundreds of people can enjoy themselves and never look at another person.
  • It's not like a cafeteria, where I can pick what I like, and reject everything else.

Rather, it's what the Last Supper was - a gathering of friends, or at least of people who care for each other. It's a family meal that bonds us in what we believe publicly about Jesus. If the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins can shout, with the city, "We are family!", then the followers of Jesus ought to shout, "We are family, too" all the more genuinely.

Yet, our altar table is not to be set as in a private dining room, but in the middle of all people — open to all people. We must sit at this table and be acutely conscious of eyes that are watching us — eyes of people so exhausted from malnutrition that they couldn't walk to the altar if they wanted to; eyes of people watching us through the bars of forgotten prisons, "tiger cages," refugee camps; eyes that look at us with hate, because we are rich and well-fed; eyes that look at us with the dull misery of drug dependence or mental handicaps.

Some people say we're hypocrites because we sit at the table and avoid these eyes. The fact is, only at the table of Jesus will we ever get the courage to go out to the strangers and the prisoners, the naked, the sick, the hungry.

I've often felt that members of Alcoholics Anonymous, even though they speak only of a "Higher Power," are really wonderful examples of what Church is, or should be: Here are people who humbly admit their weaknesses, accept and support each other — people who need this community.

Again you may object:

"I've been in lots of churches and never felt that way. I was just one stranger among many. Some people gathered to talk after Mass, but most just raced to the parking lot."

I admit that this is too often true. We have a long way to go; there can be stiffness at Mass on Sunday too, and feuds — just like a family. But usually:

  • when there is a new baby and a christening, many times the family is there at Mass to celebrate our new member.
  • when there is a wedding, all our family and friends attend to celebrate and pray that the couple can fulfill their life-long commitment of love.
  • when there is a death, everyone turns out for Mass and accompanies the funeral procession to the cemetery.

It's more than parish loyalty, or friendship. It was centered in the Mass. It was a public statement of faith.

I've come to the conclusion that the most moving liturgy these days is experienced in well-prepared funeral Masses. By well-prepared I mean a group of people (sometimes referred to as the "bereavement committee") that considers the needs of the sorrowing family, helping them decide which readings and hymns will be most appropriate. They prepare a get-together afterwards, and arranges for follow-up calls and cards in the days and weeks that follow the funeral. I have been greatly moved at funerals, not only with grief when it's my own family or friends, but with a sense of Christian hope: Seeing people enter into the prayers, sing, smile through their tears, and really believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus is present for them to enter into.

We shouldn't have to wait for funerals.

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4. Why go to Mass? Because it's worth the cost.

Growing to maturity means a growing willingness to "accept what I don't like for the sake of what I love." Applied to going to Mass, this principle means that I will put up with:

  • crying babies
  • incomprehensible sermons
  • ill-practiced choirs
  • money talk
  • people talking, in church, after Mass, while I'm trying to say my Rosary
  • factions (St. Paul knew all about that: see 1 Corinthians 3:3 and 11 :17)

That's life. Similar aggravations occur in our own family, unless I'm singularly lucky. Families have:

  • squabbles
  • silent treatment
  • spilt milk
  • drunkenness
  • selfishness
  • fights over silly things like TV

That's the human condition.

Yet most of us go home every night. We pout and grumble, but when the crisis comes, we draw together like, well, like a family. So Christian maturity means realizing that any group, including my parish community, will have its white, black and gray sheep. I will have an endless search if I keep going from church to church, or group to group, or family to family, expecting some day to find the perfect one. The 12 apostles had one defector, and not all the rest were saints-of-the-month either.

I always go home because I belong there. I go to Mass because I belong there; I am a member of the Body of Christ. Even if I'm only a finger, or an eye, the Body needs what I can contribute: presence, prayer, loyalty, perseverance, humor, encouragement, kindness, for short — myself.

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5. Why go to Mass? Because I want to be a contributing member.

I don't mean money. To state the obvious, I have to put something in, if I expect to get something out. This counts for vending machines, computers, marriage, and gambling. I know it's irritating to have someone say,

"But did you put anything in?"

when I complain about not getting anything "out of" Mass, but, even in the "worst" of Masses, I can listen to God speak to me in the readings (with a missalette, missal or Bible, if need be). The same for the powerful Eucharistic prayers. Even going to Mass with a headache or a heartache, I can say,

"This is what God wants me to do. God wants to draw me close with my brothers and sisters; He wants me to offer my current sufferings to Him through the Mass. In return, Jesus offers me his friendship, his life giving death and death-destroying resurrection, his life, in the Holy Eucharist."

(Perhaps my real feelings will come out the day they forbid the Mass in America, and I will have to risk the rifle-butt knock on the door when we huddle together with only a little candle to show the bread and wine.)

"Putting something in" may mean, one Sunday or another, just holding my headache in my hands in desperate stillness or just offering my pain up to Jesus in mute appeal. (Note: Mother Teresa has been noted to say that the times we suffer, are the times Our Lord is closest to us. He is hugging us from the Cross.) But it's not that way every Sunday. I think the rankest pagan would tell me,

"If you go, go along. If you're one of the crew, pull your oar!"

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6. Why go to Mass? Because I have a body.

I am no angel, in more ways than one. I am human, and I have been taught and have verified in experience, that nothing is fully human until it is expressed through my body; or, as a friend of mine says,

"If it doesn't come out, it ain't there."

If I think for a moment, I realize how true this is. If someone says he or she loves me, but never says a word to me, never looks at me, or touches me, or gives me a gift, or even a nod, the smallest child in the world could tell me that this "lover" of mine doesn't love me.

We all have grandiose plans, as we go to sleep, or finish a retreat, or go home after a stirring talk. We're going to stop smoking, walk five miles a day, write to Aunt Mamie, clean that closet, do that term paper. We're high as a kite — inside.

And what happens when we come to what is rightly called the cold light of dawn? I have two cigarettes before I get to the front door, five miles seem like 500 and out of the question, Aunt Mamie won't mind another week, and the closet's been that way 10 years already, so why bother?

The need for body-expression is why we have words, signs, symbols, sacraments - outward signs. We couldn't live without them. If we didn't have ritual, we would make it up. The Mass (and many other religious actions) are part of the human side of our faith. Jesus, our Savior, Himself is not only God; he is also 100 percent man. That said, we need someone we can see, hear, and touch. He says, now:

"What happened then at the breaking of the bread, happens now. Now my real presence, my action, is contained under what looks like bread and wine, and under the words and songs and bodies of people."

Jesus said, "Do this" physical, visible, audible, touchable, tastable thing in memory of me.

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7. Why go to Mass? Because I have sinned.

We might almost accuse God of making us spoiled children. Being God, he can't help loving us. He can't help forgiving us. He just is forgiveness. There is no unforgivable sin except refusing to be forgiven. Shall I be a freeloader, then? Just presume God's forgiveness? Go blithely along with no sense of healthy shame, simple gratitude — at least a bit of embarrassment?

Don't we all, rather, need to respond to God's goodness with some visible, external action?

True again, I can go out into the woods and tell God, "I am sorry.", (Why do those who say this never actually go to those woods?), but the most proper place to be reconciled is the place where the redeeming death and resurrection of Jesus is made present to us — where the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus is, and where he specifically invites us to remember Him.

And, of course, if I am not a sinner, my heart will be so pure and responsive that I won't be able to wait to get there!

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8. Why go to Mass? Because I need energy.

I don't know how grace "works", but I do know that when I feel I can get along without God's very presence, power, love — then one of two things will happen.

  • I will become "independent," isolated, the master of my fate, the captain of my soul, etc. I will become a self-starter, self-made, blind, but all-seeing.man or woman.

  • Or, I will spend my life desperately trying one hypodermic after another. With poet Francis Thompson, I may be lucky enough, someday, to realize that "I fled Him, down the nights and down the days; I fled him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the mist of tears; I hid from Him, and under running laughter" (The Hound of Heaven) .

So, I need the energy, paradoxically, to be come powerless, weak, and totally dependent on God, relaxing in his presence; humanly-psychologically mature and responsible, yet childlike in my need. I need the energy to stop running away from this Hound of Heaven; to stop being the hungry, exhausted wanderer, going from one empty well to another.

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9. Why go to Mass? Because I need roots and a future.

There are no "ghosts of Christmas past" in my parish church, but as I walk through it, empty, with the sun lighting those old German stained-glass windows, I know that my mother and father looked at them, and my grandmother and grandfather. I see the pew that my grandfather always managed to rent — not too far up, not too far back. There's where we knelt as children, for "First Communion". There's where good old Gertrude Reilly knelt for 60 years and prayed up a storm. There's the altar, where I hammered the chimes at the precise moment the priest began to lift the host.

I'm lucky. I had a solid beginning. The church (building, people, spaghetti dinners, bells) - as well as the Church (still unsuspected, but implicit: the whole Body of Christ) — was the Rock at the center of life. It was an extension of home. Here was absolute certainty and security, not yet challenged — and still the Rock when doubts and darkness did threaten.

Though religious practices may change (as they did at Vatican II), here is where hundreds, thousands, will come after me, after I walk on to join Mother and Dad and the rest — thousands who will hear the same words of Jesus, eat the same body and blood, under the appearance of the same bread and wine — be the same Body of Jesus, but in a future period of time.

I am no rootless wanderer. I belong to the past and future, centered around a cross and a sun-filled morning.

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10. Why go to Mass? Because I was made to praise.

I was not made for myself, however contrary the evidence. As Victor Frankl says,

Happiness is a by-product: If I seek it directly, I'll never find it. If I am for others, and for the Other, I find it. My eternal life (I hope) will be an instant of ecstasy as I see the Living God and respond to the Wonder as a newly sighted person is thrilled with the brilliance of color and form.

This sounds very dull to us, poor people who live on "What's new?" It's not only sophomores in high school who are appalled to think that heaven is the "Top 100" played on a thousand guitars for a million years and saying,

"Man, this is, like, boring!"

O. K., let's take it simply, even if abstractly. We are made for love, joy, truth, peace, beauty, and goodness. God is all of that, without limit. God answers our questions and our search. And we should say,

"You are God: We praise you."

(It's not an eternal "Wow!" though that comes within an infinity of expressing the truth.)

We don't just start singing this great song of praise the moment we die, as if by some magic a sheep could start singing Aida. I won't suddenly be a praiser, exulter, singer, contemplater, without some training in my earth bound existence.

The training is free, and I can even make a late start. I will sound amazingly better than I do now, but there will be no essential change in what I do, because the same Spirit will be in me then as it is now.

There are many ways and means of singing to God, but the praise God, Himself, arranged on earth is the voice of Jesus and his people, together at Mass.

This is, finally, the reason Jesus' followers come to the Eucharistic thanksgiving celebration on the Lord's Day.

Leonard Foley, O.F.M., is the author of numerous books and articles. He has many years of experience as an editor, teacher, retreat master and parish priest.

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