Ten Reasons to go to Sunday Mass, as well as daily Mass.
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.
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.
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
"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
2. Why go to Mass? Because I believe in
To put it very briefly, because
I believe that Jesus is God's will for me. The Catechism
of the Catholic Church states:
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
His words, commands and actions mean something for
me and are for my own good — e.g. for
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)
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,
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!!!
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,
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.
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
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
are family!", then
the followers of Jesus ought to shout, "We are
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
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
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
have to wait for funerals.
go to Mass? Because it's worth the cost.
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
- ill-practiced choirs
- money talk
- people talking, in church,
after Mass, while I'm trying to say my Rosary
(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.
- silent treatment
- spilt milk
- fights over
silly things like TV
That's the human condition.
Yet most of us go home
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.
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,
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
go, go along. If you're one of the crew, pull your
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,
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
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,
"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
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,
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!
go to Mass? Because I need energy.
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 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.
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.
go to Mass? Because I need roots and a future.
There are no "ghosts of Christmas
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
I am no rootless wanderer. I belong to the past and
future, centered around a cross and a sun-filled morning.
10. Why go to Mass? Because I was made
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
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
played on a thousand guitars for a million years and
"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,
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
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.