WHY CATHOLICS COME TO MASS
The reasons Catholics give for skipping Sunday Mass are important, and the Church needs to hear these concerns and respond. Equally important, however, are the reasons Catholics come to Mass.
1. To respond to God’s love
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him . . . might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). Jesus offered himself on the cross for our salvation. He continues to give himself through the Eucharist.
The word love in English has been stripped of much of its beauty and meaning. It’s often reduced to a feeling. The word for God’s love in Greek, agape, connotes action, a self-gift. Our love for God is a self-gift in return—of our time, energy, worries, hopes, and joy. The Mass is the best place to thank God for our gifts—especially life, family, friends, faith, and love.
2. To encounter Christ
At Mass, eternity and time intersect. It’s part of God’s plan of salvation that we meet him directly and receive his grace through the sacraments. We believe that God is really present with us in the Mass.
Christ is present in four ways during the Mass: 1) the community celebrating, 2) the word proclaimed, 3) the priest presiding, and 4) the Eucharist (see Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 7). Because of these encounters with Christ at Mass, we seek to be active participants—not passive spectators—listening to his word, sharing in the offertory, singing, and proclaiming a reverent Amen (“truly, I believe”) when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
3. To gather and pray with our parish family
Christian life is a pilgrimage with our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Discipleship is lived in friendship and fraternity with those for whom and with whom we pray at Sunday Mass. Our presence symbolizes solidarity and unity with God and others. It’s the fullest expression of our Christian identity.
4. To strengthen our particular family
During the Sacrament of Baptism, parents are reminded that they’re called to be the first and best teachers of their children in the ways of faith. Knowing that the Mass is Catholicism’s central prayer and the source and summit of Christian life, we teach our children one of the most important lessons when we attend Mass with them.
“I grew up in a family where going to Mass on Sunday was about as optional as breathing.” Many of us can identify with this experience—this sense of how important Sunday Eucharist is for our family identity and survival. To miss Mass is to stop breathing.
5. To witness and provide a legacy to our children
Children watch their parents and grandparents. We form our young people by the way we participate in the Mass. Children who see that their parents get to church early to pray before Mass will want to imitate them.
Children who observe parents and other adults reverently receiving the Eucharist will more readily realize that the Eucharist is truly the body and blood of Christ. The example of parents is an essential part of preparation for first holy Communion. Children whose parents tell them how much and why they love Mass will be less inclined to compare Mass to television and consider it “boring.”
The way we celebrate Sunday will affect the way we live the remainder of the week and is a mark of Christian identity from generation to generation.
6. To be transformed by sacramental grace
The Eucharist gives us strength to face life’s challenges and to keep mindful of God’s love for us. Jesus said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. . . . Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and . . . remains in me and I in him” (Jn 6:51, 54, 56).
The graces and transformative insights God provides in each celebration of Mass help us move toward happier, holier lives. As we prepare for Mass, we can pray confidently that Christ will give us sanctifying grace. When we arrive, we can ask God to speak to us through the readings, music, homily, and prayers, and show us how to become the persons we’re created to be. We can then pray about how to put our new insights into practice in the upcoming week.
7. To participate in Jesus’ victory over death Each Sunday Mass is a “little Easter” because it marks the resurrection—Jesus’ victory over death. This is the most significant victory in history because it opens up the possibility of everlasting life.
God loves each of us so much that he became incarnate—a human being—and died for our sins. He did this because he wants us to live eternally with him in heaven. His victory becomes our victory.
8. To receive a foretaste of heaven
“Every time we celebrate the Eucharist,” Pope John Paul II preached, “we participate in the Lord’s Supper which gives us a foretaste of the heavenly glory.”
In his encyclical On the Eucharist (Ecclesia de Eucharistia), he wrote, “Those who feed on Christ in the Eucharist need not wait until the hereafter to receive eternal life: they already possess it on earth, as the first-fruits of a future fullness which will embrace man in his totality. For in the Eucharist we also receive the pledge of our bodily resurrection at the end of the world: ‘He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day’ (Jn 6:54).
“This pledge of the future resurrection comes from the fact that the flesh of the Son of Man, given as food, is his body in its glorious state after the resurrection. With the Eucharist we digest, as it were, the ‘secret’ of the resurrection. For this reason Saint Ignatius of Antioch rightly defined the eucharistic bread as ‘a medicine of immortality, an antidote to death’” (no. 18).
9. To follow God’s guidance and grow in relationship with God
God’s Third Commandment instructs us to keep the Sabbath holy. By keeping Sunday for God, keeping first things first, and putting God above other things, we will experience greater order and peace in our lives.
The Church calls us to make a commitment to attend Sunday Mass. In doing so, we promise to keep up our relationship with Christ and our Church family—the body of Christ.
We come to Mass in response to a commitment of love, not just to fulfill an obligation. Christ eagerly desires to meet us in the Mass and be present to us at all times. He hopes that we reciprocate his desire and make it a personal commitment of love and gratitude each week.