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Lorna wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • How can missing Mass even if it is on purpose be a mortal sin?

When Jesus preached on the Mount He never forced anyone to go. He never said,

Come follow me or else!!

People gathered with Jesus when they felt like it. Jesus never imposes Himself. He is ours to seek.

The idea that missing Mass is a mortal sin seems like the Church's way of instilling guilt into its congregation . . . making sure they keep coming back for more. A way to keep the money rolling in so to speak.

So my question is this:

  • Are you seriously telling me that, unless I confess to a priest for missing Mass on purpose, I have cut my relationship from God forever, a relationship I can't get back, regardless of whatever good deeds I do?

Lorna

  { Are you seriously telling me by missing Mass on purpose, I have cut off my relationship with God? }

Bob replied:

Lorna,

I understand how you may arrive at your cynical interpretation of the rule, that seems to make sense on the surface but look at it another way:

In the Decalogue several commandments have to do with the worship of God and keeping of the Sabbath ranks among them. For Jews, keeping of the Sabbath involved extensive adherence to multiple codes of conduct and limitations. It was this very matter which spawned so much conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees.

Jesus kept pointing to the real meaning of the day versus the lengthy prescriptions on observance. That lesson has not been lost. Our basis duty is to keep the Sabbath by worshipping God and we do that as a community.

So here is the sequence of logic:

  • We must keep the Sabbath.
    Matthew 5:17-19; Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:27; Luke 23:56; Hebrews 4:9

  • The Church has authority to define and prescribe ecclesiastical law.
    Matthew 16:17-19; 1 Timothy 3:15

  • The Church has distilled the foundational way we are to keep the Sabbath as community-forsaking all superfluous law.

  • Barring legitimate dispensations, this law is to be kept, for it is the order by which we fulfill the commandment to uphold the Sabbath.

  • Knowingly rejecting this duty is akin to breaking God's own command to uphold the Sabbath, I will not serve, such as the enemy of God has uttered from time immemorial. It is a grave offense.

    This has nothing to do with those who failed to make church for a good reason. God knows the heart and attitude, and certainly can discern for Himself who is true and who is not but the Church's injunction is a warning to those that would flout their duty to worship God formally as a church community.

    If we look at the effects of non-attendance in church across our culture you can see the devastating effect. The damage is most pronounced on the generation of children who are not brought to worship. Yes, God knew what He was doing when He gave his Church authority to make laws to uphold righteousness.

    It simply is a matter where souls are at stake.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

Lorna replied:

Thanks Bob.

I can see we will never see eye to eye on this one.

If I remember correctly, (and you can correct me if I'm wrong), Jesus suggested we could gather at home and break bread in His name and this would be like a church, but then along came the Catholics and said:

"No, no, no . . . not good enough! Only the Eucharist of an organized religion is the true Body of Christ".

  • Would this be correct?

It's true, there was a lot of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees. Just as you point out,

"For Jews, keeping the Sabbath involved extensive adherence to multiple codes"!

  • But how did Jesus respond?

Jesus said, I desire Mercy, not sacrifice!

  • In other words, A Pharisee can follow all the codes under the sun but if he can't show mercy to his brother, what has he accomplished?

Mercy, in fact, is focal to Jesus' teachings. If we think about it, there is no need to create an image of the sinner. The only image we need to create is the image of a Forgiver.

  • Don't we ask God to Forgive us as we forgive others (by equal measure)?

So I come back to the Church.

  • Why does the Church not show mercy and say, It's OK you missed Mass. Make your peace with God and come back when you are ready to. We are always here?

but No . . . instead, the Church wants us to feel guilty. The Church wants us to feel like a sinner.
Hail the sinner!

The Church wants us to know that if we don't confess to a priest after missing Mass, we are forbidden from partaking in the body of Christ. The Church's Mercy is conditional:

First, follow the code and then receive the Eucharist.

But you know, the Church has historically thrived on creating the image of the sinner.

A whole congregation of people would be against one man, if the priests so dictated it and they did lest we forget the Spanish inquisition? In fact, not too long ago, you could even buy a place in Heaven and be saved from all your sins, if you had enough cash. If the Church had fermented an image of the forgiver instead, there would have been no need for the Inquisition but of course it wasn't practical.

I would argue that an organized religion leads us astray, and in many ways, makes us less spiritual because it is contaminated. Better to make your church at home with your family like Jesus suggested. As far as I'm concerned, the Church sounds just like the Pharisees.

So here is the true sequence of logic:

  • We must keep the Sabbath.

  • The Organized Catholic Church has self-appointed authority (even above the original Orthodox Church) to define and prescribe ecclesiastical law.

  • The Church has distilled (watered down out of convenience) the foundational way we are to keep the Sabbath as community — forsaking all superfluous law and dismissing altogether what Jesus Himself prescribed.

  • Barring legitimate dispensation, this law is to be kept, for it is the order by which we fulfill the commandment to uphold the Sabbath. Even though, we must not forget, lest someone not uphold the Sabbath, that to show Mercy towards this person would be even more important.

Peace and Love,

Lorna

Bob replied:

Lorna,

Your response demonstrates antipathy for organized, structured religion, as if Jesus Himself were not responsible for it. That is simply false. Christ himself established a visible, structured Church based on His Apostles with Peter in a unique role Matthew 16:17-19, and they passed His Authority down through subsequent generations. It never has been self-appointed.

That is the definition of Protestantism.

Of course, there is mercy above all but that is not to say that standards are not set. The same principle could be said of Marriage. Jesus said a man who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery. There were no outs in His Teaching. If you read 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul clearly warns people about the dangers of this sin amongst others. The Catholic Church is given a lot of flack because it holds people to a standard that Christ established.

  • How do Protestants meet this direct teaching out?

Most Protestant churches divorce and remarry with impunity. At least the Catholic Church has a formal annulment process to examine a marriage's validity so that She does not condone adultery.

  • Remember Henry the VIII?

The sarcasm in your letter to me seems to convey that this is a personal matter to you . . . that somehow you were hurt or burned along the way. If someone in the Church is responsible for an injustice towards you I am deeply sorry.

There is no greater pain than betrayal from any Christian. The Church will always be full of Judas' and sinners but there are many who by God's grace do live holy lives and love, as Christ calls us to.

I hope you encounter more of the latter.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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