Why Go to Mass?
Not every Mass is going to be a great and deeply moving experience. Lifelong Catholics may have grown so used to the ritual that they aimlessly go through the motions and find their minds often wander. So, why bother going to Mass? Here is a list of the “Top 10” reasons for going to Mass:
Reason #1: To Gather Together in Christian Fellowship
Living a truly Christian life is not easy and a supportive community is vitally important. We cannot live as Christians just by ourselves. We are, rather, called to enter into relationships with others on our Christian journey through this life. Without fellow Christians, our faith would be stunted, fade away and die. It is while united in active celebration together at Mass that we will most powerfully experience the joy implicit in Jesus’ saying “For where two or three gather in my name, I shall be there with them.” (Matthew 18:20) By participating in Mass we become a part of the Catholic Christian community, together with Jesus, where we live or where we happen to be.
Reason #2: To Celebrate With Song
Congregational singing has always been one of the most powerful ways to for the community to pray together. In the words of St. Augustine, “Singing is praying twice.” Many people find good liturgical music quite inspiring and an important part of worshipping God in a community of believers. But, liturgical music cannot be mistaken as entertainment. Music in worship is a means towards prayer, contemplation and reflection. Good liturgical music is carefully selected to reinforce the central message of the Word of the Lord during Mass.
Reason #3: To Worship God and Pray Together
From the earliest days of Christianity, men and women have brought their deepest needs and desires to the table of the Lord, confident that they will be joined to Christ’s great act of intercession before the Father. So, we can bring our deepest desires to the table of the Lord, confident they will be heard. St. John Vianney said of liturgical prayer, “Private prayer is like straw scattered here and there: If you set it on fire it makes a lot of little flames. But gather these straws into a bundle and light them, and you get a mighty fire, rising like a column into the sky; public prayer is like that.” So, we come together to join our prayers of Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (the acronym “A.C.T.S.”) with the other members of our faith community. If we love God, we will want to spend some of our time with Him in the way He wants us to. And, God wants us to give ourselves to Him in worship.
Reason #4: To Receive God’s Help and Healing
It is hard to do difficult things alone. Following Jesus can be tough work. We need God’s help to keep going in life, to live as Jesus and His Church call us to live. We go to Mass to receive the help we need to live the Christian life. We receive special graces by worshipping God, by hearing God’s Word proclaimed in the Scriptures, and by being nourished by the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. It’s been said, “The Church is not a haven for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” We don’t go to Mass to proclaim our holiness, but rather we go to humbly seek God’s help and healing.
Reason #5: To Receive the Word of God
During the Liturgy of the Word, we hear Christ’s voice in the readings from Scripture. As Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states, “it is Christ himself who speaks when the Holy Scriptures are read in the Church.” We also hear Christ’s voice in the homily, when the priest seeks to apply these inspired words to our lives. We know that if we listen in the right frame of mind, asking Jesus to open our hearts and minds, we will receive a message – a personal message.
Reason #6: To Remember Christ and His Sacrifice on the Cross
Whenever we gather together at Mass, we remember Christ and share in His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, as He asked us to do at the Last Supper. At each Mass, God makes present and available to us, with lavish generosity, the saving power of the cross. We also partake in His death and resurrection, in the hope of His glorious return and our salvation. As the bishops said at Vatican II, “…it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is accomplished.” At every Mass, we join in a special way with the event of the crucifixion and we offer to God the same sacrifice, which Jesus offered to the Father on the cross. We also offer our lives and ask the Father to accept everything we have – our joys, our talents, our sorrows, our all.
Reason #7: To Be Filled With and Become More Like Jesus Christ
At the Consecration, the bread and wine, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become the Body and Blood of Christ. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus Himself. He said this very plainly: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:56)
Without physical food we will die physically. In the same way, without spiritual food we will die spiritually. By receiving Holy Communion we receive the grace we need to become more like Christ. It’s been said, “We are what we eat.” St. Augustine expressed this well when he said about Eucharist, “Believe what you receive. Receive what you believe. Become what you receive.” This is why we are called to receive Holy Communion regularly and frequently.
Reason #8: To Strengthen Us for Our Mission
The Mass provides us with a sense of our mission, of why we are here on earth. As we say in the closing line of the Mass, our mission is to love and serve the Lord and one another. We are to called to live as Christ lived and act as Christ would act. The hard part of doing Eucharist is living with the same self-giving love that the Mass celebrates. The Mass not only gives us a sense of what we ought to do, it also strengthens us for doing it. Our Lord does not send us out into the world as orphans. Rather, He equips us for the journey. Jesus has formed us by teaching us through His Word, and He has fed us with His very Presence. Just as our Lord walked the streets of Jerusalem, so now Jesus is within each one of us to help us live as His disciples. Together with Christ we can make a tremendous difference in this world. So, the final test of whether the Mass “works” is: “By their fruits shall you know them.” (Matthew 7:16) And, our fruit must be our love of God and love of others.
Reason #9: To Develop and Express Our Faith Commitment
Another reason to go to Mass is to develop the habit of worshiping and glorifying God. Human beings ordinarily develop by forming habits, some good and some bad. The discipline of worshiping God helps us to grow into being habitual “adorers of God,” even when we do not feel like it. Mass can sometimes be boring. Children and young people often wonder why the Mass can’t be more fun. Instead of asking “What should I get out of Mass?”, the better question is “What should I put into the Mass?” We are there to pray, worship and thank God. God is not there to entertain us.
Reason #10: To Follow the Commands of God, Jesus, and the Church
The third of the Ten Commandments is, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.” (Exodus 20:8 and Deuteronomy 5:12-15) Christians observe Sunday as a day of worship and rest in order to honor the Resurrection of Jesus. Jesus instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper when he took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you. Do this in memory of me.” (Luke 22:14,19) By celebrating Mass, we remember Jesus’ great act of love for us on the Cross so that we – if we follow his commandments – can live with him forever in heaven. Therefore, the Church teaches that we must fulfill the command of Jesus by attending Mass. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2042) explains that attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation is the first of the five Precepts of the Church. Willingly disobeying this precept is seriously sinful.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1324) calls the Mass “The source and summit of the Christian life.” Thus, the Mass is central to our lives as Catholic Christians. It is the “summit” toward which all our activities point and it is the “source” from which all our blessings flow. Jesus gives Himself to us in His Word and His Real Presence at Mass. The strength we receive from the Mass should lead us nearer to God, should spur us on in our struggles against sin, and should empower us to help others. The Christ we receive in the Eucharist asks us and enables us to go forth and do God’s work in the world. Clearly, this is to be the central purpose of our lives.