Apologetic Tract Why Go to Mass?

By 10:21 AM


As we look at the trends in our own country, it seems that about 25-33% of Catholics attend Mass regularly on Sundays.  There are many reasons given for non-attendance:
·       From not getting anything out of Mass to being bored;
·       From other things come up to Sunday is the only time I have to do things with the family;
·       From once I missed a couple of Sundays, it was easy for me to miss to I no longer think that it is important or necessary.

Some people feel that they can just as easily worship God in nature rather than in Church.  Others say that they stopped going because of the hypocrisy of church-goers.  Anyone who wishes can justify their actions.

The question is why should we go to Mass on Sunday?  It is God’s call to us!

The first, central reason is that God commanded us to worship Him as a sign of our relationship with him. The Third Commandment states: “You shall keep holy the Sabbath.”  In the understanding of the Old Testament People believed that God gave us time to work and time to rest, time for ourselves and time for God. So, on six days of the week they worked, but on the seventh day they rested from work and focused their attention on their relationship with God through worship and prayer.  They were responding to God’s direction and expectation.

For the observant Jewish believer, such as Jesus, the Sabbath rest centered on the prayer service at the local synagogue in which psalms were sung, writings of the Law and Prophets were proclaimed and interpreted, and petitions were offered.  The remainder of the day was a time of relaxation and reflection.  Then on certain festivals they would go to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices, according to the prescriptions of the Law. Jesus took this commandment and gave new meaning to it, when he celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. In anticipation of his death on the cross and his resurrection by which we are saved, Jesus changed bread and wine into his Body and Blood and commanded the apostles to “do this in memory of” him. This was the new sacrifice which replaced the sacrifices and offerings of the Old Covenant.  This was the new sacrifice of worship, giving thanks to God for his many signs of love. It is the sacrifice of the Son of God to the Father in the Spirit on our behalf, which makes present in the here and now what Jesus did at the Last Supper and on Calvary. This is the sacrifice that Jesus referred to when he told the Samaritan woman: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.” (Jn 4:23)

The first Christians, following the lead of the Apostles, recognized that, because Jesus rose on Easter Sunday and the Spirit of God descended on them on Pentecost Sunday, the Sabbath rest had changed and had new meaning.  They began to worship as Jesus commanded on the first day of the week instead of the Jewish Sabbath.  They would gather together to praise God through psalms and other songs, listen to the Word of God from the Law and Prophets, listen to the teachings about the life and ministry of Jesus, say the words of Jesus over the bread and wine and share it with one another.  All the time, they awaited the promised return of Jesus.

This is reflected in Acts of the Apostles: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles (the scriptures) and to the communal life (the assembly of believers), to the breaking of the bread (celebration of Eucharist) and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

In time, the Third Commandment to worship God was specified as one of the commandments of the Church. “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.” What the Church does is identify that the day of rest for the Christian dispensation is Sunday, not Saturday. It also clarifies the “Sabbath rest” according to the Christian tradition.

Some people say they are bored during Mass or get nothing out of it, so they go irregularly or not at all. Why are we commanded to go to Mass?  We are commanded by God not that God needs us to worship him but that we need for our sake to express our relationship with God through worship.  If we are not worshiping the True God we will worship some other god.

The command to worship God follows the command to recognize that there is only one God and not to have any strange gods before him (First Commandment). It also follows the command to respect the holy name of God (Second Commandment). In other words the way we recognize, properly acknowledge and honor God is through authentic worship.

When we go to Church, it is to give God the worship, adoration, praise, thanksgiving, honor and blessing that are due to him as Creator from the creature.  This is the primary purpose. Our focus is God not ourselves, how we feel or what we receive.

But herein is the paradox.  If we have worshiped God freely and totally, focusing on him, in turn we will be open to whatever God desires us to experience.  We are only secondary.  And in fact, if we have given our best to God in worship, we will experience the love of God and the presence of God in ways that only can come from God.

Our worship of God on earth is to anticipate our worship of God in eternity. There the focus of the angels and saints is God himself, not on themselves. Listen to the Word of God found in the Book of Revelation.
“They sang a new hymn: ‘Worthy are you to receive the scroll, and to break open its seal, for you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God those from every tribe and tongue, people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God, and they will reign on earth.’ I looked again and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.’ Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: ‘To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.’ The four living creatures answered, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped. “
(Rev 5:9-14)

If we enter into worship of God for God’s sake, we will be filled with an awareness of his presence.  In this scenario, the priest celebrant/homilist is not the focus.  He is only an instrument.  The environment and the music are not the reasons we go to Church. They are only possible tools to bring us closer to God.  We go to Church for God and him alone.

If we go to receive for ourselves, to feel good, then we risk coming up empty handed.  In this scenario, we are looking for self-gratification.  We are looking to have our ears tickle and our emotions affirmed. What did Paul say about this? “For the time is coming when people  will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves  teachers to suit their own liking, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.”
(2 Tim 4:3-4)

Another central focus of the Mass is the Eucharist, “the source and summit of our faith.”  True, the Mass is a sacrifice of thanksgiving, in which we participate in the offering of Christ to the Father in the Spirit. True, we continue to hear and to be nourished by the Word of God. But we are also called to participate in the sacrificial banquet meal, in which we share in the Body and Blood of Jesus.  It is our faith that bread and wine are changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ through the words  of consecration, then offered to the Father in thanksgiving, then given to us to be eaten and drank, in accordance with the command of Jesus at the Last Supper.

The importance of sharing in the Body and Blood of Jesus was stressed “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world... Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.  Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”  (Jn 6:51-59)

By participating in Mass, we give God the worship which is his due, according to his direction; we hear and are nourished by his Word; we offer the Sacrifice that Jesus told us to do in his memory; we share in the Body and Blood of Jesus, our food for the journey towards eternal life, as commanded by Jesus.  This is the will of God for us.

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