Saturday, April 21, 2007

Why do I have to go to Mass on Sunday?

I have never seen or heard the answer I’m about to give you. A search of this question on the internet will reveal a myriad of explanations and a multitude of words that are a mixture of reason, the 3rd commandment, history, and church law. A personal query of fellow Catholics, be they clergy or lay folks, will reveal similar results. The one thing all the answers have in common is that they are ineffective as evidenced by the overall continuance of declining Mass attendance (at least in the West).

One of the reasons why I believe the answers for this question and many others about the Catholic Faith are ineffective is because we long ago eliminated Apologetics as a discipline in Catholic formation. Apologetics is the science of explaining things in a convincing way. With the “I’m okay, you’re okay” approach to catechesis (and just about everything else) Apologetics is cast aside.

But how odd that in an “age of reason” we would eliminate the study of how to give a reason! How ironic is it that we would abolish the discipline that is designed to give an answer just as we enter upon a generation that is demanding answers! Should we then be surprised at the empty pews?

A simple survey of Catholic literature (I have to say it) prior to Vatican II will show a massive dedication to the exposition and explanation of the Faith in the most minute and pain staking detail. A similar survey of Catholic literature hence will show a massive dedication to everything BUT “the exposition and explanation of the Faith in the most minute and pain staking detail”.

The fact that the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its accompanying Compendium are post Vatican II products is not a refutation of what I just said but truly a validation. The compilation and publication of the current Catechism and its companion works is a direct attempt by our Popes to rescue the clear good sense of the Church in all its stark and unflinching truth from the swirling milieu of subjective catechetics and theological relativism. The terse question/answer format of the just released “Compendium to the Catechism” even more severely ratifies the Church’s negative assessment of the current state of Catholic formation and the need to speak with (I have to say it) pre-Vatican II clarity (a la Baltimore Catechism).

All of the foregoing needed to be said before I can give an answer to the question “Why do we have to go to Mass on Sunday?” for HOW to answer the question is just as important as the answer itself, for it is not the answer that will effect the desired result (getting a person to Mass – or keeping him there), but the REASON for the answer, the “apologia”.

I have never had the opportunity to approach Apologetics as a science…wasn’t offered where I went to school! Hmmm. But in the course of desperately trying to explain my Catholic Faith to people who hated the Catholic Faith and who accepted no authority other than the Bible, I hit upon the ridiculously brilliant idea of actually explaining my Catholic Faith from the Bible, even “their” Bible. And guess what? It actually works for Catholics too.

In other words, you can’t just give an answer; you have to give an answer that’s in the Bible. And ALL the answers to questions concerning the Catholic Faith ARE in the Bible because the Holy Spirit has seen to it; and the “Bible” IS in fact a Catholic Book.

Here’s your answer (from the Bible).

At the Last Supper, regardless of whether or not you believe that what occurred was in fact the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus COMMANDS His Apostles to do what He just did with the words “do this”.(the clearest scripture on this is 1 Cor 11: 23-25).
Now the bottom line is this. When you hit the end of the line in this life, you are going to go to one of two places: to Glory or to “everlasting fire”. (Purgatory is not a final destination – and those there are assured of Heaven. We’ll cover that another time.) Those who go to Heaven will simply be those who DID what He said to do. And those who go to the other place will be those who refused to do what He said to do.

So that’s why it’s not about your being able to “commune” with God better on a golf course or at the beach. It’s not about how YOU can better praise God in the quiet of your own home. It’s not about YOU at all!. It’s about HIM and it’s about DOING what He said to do. And He said to “do this”. And there’s only one place I know where that happens, and that’s at the Catholic Mass (I’ll discuss other church’s so-called communion services later).

Now the next question is “Why on Sunday?” and “Why every Sunday?” The answer is in Acts 20: 7 in these words: “On the first day of the week when we gathered to break bread…” A continued reading of the New Testament reveals that the words “break bread” clearly refer to a re-presentation of the Lord’s Supper and the carrying out of His last command to “do this”.

And WHEN were they doing this? “ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK”, on SUNDAY. The fact that the words “first day of the week” are used clearly indicates that this was a weekly thing. In other words, the first Christians understood the last command of Christ as a command to be a re-presentation of the Lord’s Supper (what we now call “Mass” – I’ll discuss why we call it “Mass” later) on the first day of every week.

Now, there’s only one place I know that does the “do this” on the first day of EVERY week and that’s at the Catholic Mass. So the question then becomes: you can obey the command of Christ or you can disobey. It’s your choice: the sheep or the goats. Take your pick.

I may not “get anything out of Mass” (and teachers please stop saying “well you have to put something into it”). I may in fact be severely irritated at Sunday Mass (I often am). I may not “want to go” (I rarely do). I may think that I could get closer to God in some sort of private devotion (I always do). But the bottom line is that IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. It’s about HIM. And it’s about DOING WHAT HE SAID. So that’s why I do it. And that’s why you BETTER do it. Your choice: sheep or the goats.

Tim Rohr
April 21, 2007

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