The Catholic Church requires all its members to attend Mass every Sunday. She also requires attendance at Mass on those weekdays that have been designated as “Holy Days of Obligation” by the Church. Catholics who do not conform to this “precept of the Church” commit a mortal sin. Okay, today I’m thinking about why this precept … this directive … was created and why missing a Mass so designated is such a serious wrong.
I’m thinking primarily how and why the Church can make any such a pronouncement. I’m thinking that the “how” falls under the domain of the Scripture passage in which Jesus says to Peter: “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mat 16,19). In other words, Jesus gave to his Church, in the person of St. Peter, the privilege to bind and loose “whatever” she deems appropriate. Based on this Scripture passage, I believe that Jesus gave the Catholic Church the authority for this.
The question of “why” is another matter. Why does the Church choose to require her members to attend Mass every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation and then make it a serious sin if they do not do this? The answer, of course lies in the importance the Church places on frequent Mass attendance. The obvious questions then are: 1) What is the Mass and 2) Why is the Mass such a big deal? Entire books have been written in which authors lay out bit by bit what Mass is and what is happening at Mass.
The Mass is the modern day Catholic version of the “breaking of the bread” referred to in Scripture. The climax is the celebration of the Eucharist, including the transubstantiation, the changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ at the part of the Mass called the “Consecration.” It is when the priest repeats those familiar words of Jesus at the last supper. The Mass is the re-presentation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. We consume his body, blood, soul, and divinity as directed via the words of Jesus “Do this in memory of me” and “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” As such, it is a VERY big deal. To require all Church members to participate in the Mass roughly every seven days throughout their lives on Earth seems to me a very modest request and certainly something to which mortal sin could be attached if members don’t comply. It is in response to the third commandment: “Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath.”
Some members complain that the Mass is “boring” and that they get nothing out of the homily preached at Mass. In my mind, these people have the wrong focus. Mass is not about the homily. Mass is about worship. It is about the promise of eternal life. It is about an intimate contact with the Savior of mankind. Today, Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for the Mass.
My prayer for today: Lord, thank you so much for creating this perfect union with you, the Mass, the Eucharist. Help us to more fully understand this gift so that we may respond with fullest degree of worship and devotion. Amen.