Why Do I HAVE to Go to Mass?

The simple answer. Because the Church said so!

The response I often get to my answer is, “Show me this in the Bible” or, from Catholics, “Show me this in the Bible AND the Catechism OR in Canon Law.” Well, here I go…

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of our Sunday obligation beginning in Chapter 2180 where it says (referring to Canon 1247), “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.”

This “binding” is ultimately rooted in the Church’s desire to ensure that the faithful observe God’s Third Commandment, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.” Under the authority given to her (Mt 18:18), she saw fit to change the day of worship from the sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday because “in Christ’s Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath and announces man’s eternal rest in God (CCC 2175)” and this is a more appropriate day for worship.”

Some may argue here that Christ renders this type of obligation null because of Mark 2:27-28 where Our Blessed Lord says to the pharisees, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.” Here Our Blessed Lord is responding to the pharisees who questioned the moral legality of the disciples who were picking grain on the sabbath.

Take note that Jesus’ response never spoke against the sabbath. Our Blessed Lord instead recalls David’s own “unlawful” action against the law found in Lev 24:9 (Mark 2:25). It was the extreme hunger of David and his men that allowed for exception as recorded in 1 Sam 21:2-7. And so by recounting this Jesus informs the pharisees, in Mark 2:27-28) that the disciples are not only exempt from the regulations of work on the sabbath because of their hunger but because they are working for the Redeemer and that the Redeemer is the origin of the law thus not subject to it. What is so awesome in Christ’s response is that in the ultimate point is that the law of the sabbath was instituted for the benefit of man to the Glory of God. An inference can be made that if God did not place such a law in hour hearts (CCC 2176) that, as the fallen race that we are, would persist in sin and never return to worship God thus placing us further away from Him and closer to the Enemy.

Again, the Church utilizes her authority and her mandate as the steward of His flock (Mk 16:18-19) for the benefit of man to the Glory of God. The Catechism states in CCC 2182, “Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and to his Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God’s holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

But what is so good and/or essential about the Mass, especially the Sunday Eucharist?

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Well, aside from meeting the obligation to attend, the central purpose is to worship Our Lord and give Him thanks (Eucharist come from the Greek, eucharistian, which means “to give thanks”) and praise. And during that worship He humbles Himself for our benefit and allows us to receive Him in the Blessed Sacrament. This is why many Catholics go beyond Sunday and attend Mass daily.

Yes, but the Church is abusing her authority and imposing on my free will by making attendance mandatory under penalty of mortal sin.

The Church is by no means abusing her authority. What she is doing is holding fast the instructions given her by the Head who is Christ. Consider Matthew 5:17 where Jesus says, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” So if Jesus did not abolish the law, then it remains in effect even though it is now modified in order to express the fulfillment brought by Christ’s victory over death.

In Luke 10:16 Jesus says, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” This statement is made to His disciples and affirms the Church’s divine origin and mandate. So if the Church, in her wisdom, requires something of us it is because He requires it from us. So disobedience against the Church on a matter such as attendance to Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation is in fact disobedience towards Christ. This is was causes it it to become a mortal sin – the rejection of God.

However, through God’s mercy and in Christ’s example in Mark 2, the Church allows for exceptions. an exception can be made by petitioning the local ordinary for dispensation and of course, if there are truly extenuating circumstances such as the lack of a celebrant or serious illness, etc., then missing Mass may be excused (CCC 2183). This of course should not be abused and although you may be able to use excuses before men and even to deceive yourself, be rest assured that God knows the truth. And as Saint Paul cautions the Corinthians in 1 Cor 4:3-5:

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God.”

We must keep in mind that we do not know the mind of God. He knows us far better than we know ourselves. That is why it is important to make good, frequent Confessions and always seek to partake of the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible (assuming that you are in a state of grace).

I want to bring you back to Matthew 5:17 so that you, if you feel that going to Sunday Eucharist is too harsh and obligation and ultimately God’s mercy does not allow for the Church-prescribed penalty of Mortal Sin:

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

It seems pretty clear to me that we must completely submit ourselves to God and the authority of His church for she is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). In doing so for the love of God we keep His commandments we demonstrate our love for Him shining our “before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mt 5:16).

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