Every Catholic should attend Mass each Sunday. Why?
The Catholic Young Writer Award is organised annually for pupils at Catholic schools across Britain by the Catholic Union. In 2017 pupils were invited to discuss the question: “Every Catholic should attend Mass each Sunday. Why?” Winner of the Award was Kieran Breathnach of Oaklands Catholic School, Waterlooville, Hampshire, and FAITH magazine has pleasure in publishing his essay. Sub-headings have been added and there has been some editing for space.
Kieran won a £50 cash prize, plus some books and the coveted Catholic Young Writer Shield which he will keep for one year. Runners-up were: 2nd Prize Mairead McKenna, St Edward's School, Charlton Kings, Cheltenham; 3rd Prize: Paul Skipper, St Wilfred's College, South Shields.
On an early Sunday morning “Do I really have to get up just to go to Mass?” may be the question on some young Catholics as their parents announce it’s the wake-up call if they are to get to church on time. “Am I really getting anything out of it; why can’t I just pray alone?” they ponder.
How important really is Mass for Catholics, and should each one attend Mass every Sunday? The answer of course is that for Catholics attending Mass is possibly the most important hour of the week.
To consider why this is so, let us go back to the very beginning, the institution of the Eucharist…Approximately two thousand years ago, Jesus had a roller-coaster Holy Week ride, which ultimately saw Him, through God’s power, famously defeat sin and death, thereby providing us with the possibility of eternal life. Just before His crucifixion, Jesus had his Last Supper on Maundy Thursday with His disciples, during which He first instituted the Eucharist.
In Luke 22:17-20, the Gospel states… “Then he took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them saying ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ He did the same with the cup after supper, and said ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.’”
Not just a remembrance
Note the words ‘do this in remembrance of me’. When Jesus said this, he didn’t want Catholics just to remember it, or believe in it, but to actually participate in the event. Without going to Mass, we cannot be part of this. Neither can we be following the request Jesus made before laying down his life for us. And as though that was not enough, by attending Mass we are given something…and not just anything…we are given the opportunity to receive the bread of life…the body and blood of Jesus, the Son of God. By ignoring the Sunday morning wake-up call for church and turning over in bed, we are turning our back on Our Lord Jesus Christ, and His gift to us of His Body and Blood. We are showing complete indifference to the transubstantiation during the Eucharistic Prayer in which the bread and wine become the Real Presence of Christ…Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
By going to Mass, we remember and re-present his great act of love for us on the Cross – taking our sins upon himself so that we may live with him forever in Heaven Receiving God’s one and only son’s sacrifice is crucial if we are to enjoy His love and harmony in eternal life.
Although we could still remember Jesus’ sacrifice or watch a video of the Last Supper, that is not what God wanted. He wanted us to go to church to celebrate Mass with the Parish community. In Matthew 16:18-19 it is scribed ‘And I tell you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church’. The concept of church involved the disciples coming together as one unit, and not individuals doing their own thing by themselves. Such a unit would need leadership, so that everyone could support each other when following the light of Christ. In that extract from Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was in essence installing Peter as the first pope of this new Christian church of disciples. Now, we as today’s disciples have a similar duty to follow Peter’s successor, Pope Francis, in spreading the good news. The strength to do so comes from receiving the body of Christ, and that can only be obtained by going to Mass.
Jesus then goes on to say to Peter ‘I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven.’ By giving Peter the ‘keys’, he has been allowed to form the Catholic Church and upon his death, has handed over to the Popes of yesterday and today. This emphasise the fact that since Papal teaching is that we have a duty to attend Mass on a Sunday, this is indeed based on the words of Jesus himself.
With this granted power and knowledge, we can learn more about why Mass is just so important in Pope John Paul’s ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ which he wrote in 1992.
In Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181 the Pope has written ‘The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for serious reason (for example, illness the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor’. This emphasises the necessity of going to Church every week, and St John Paul goes on to say “Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.”
…By missing Mass on a Sunday, we cannot, as by going, we join in with the perfect sacrifice created by Jesus. Through the priest we offer, Jesus, Body and Blood, to the Father, just as Jesus offered himself to the Father on the Cross, as well as make present Christ’s death and Resurrection. Through this memorial of Jesus, we offer God our praise, sorrow for our sins, and deepest thanks…
…God made us social beings. He wants us to come together in community, to worship him. Jesus said “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I” (Matthew 18:20). Without the communal event of Mass every week, we can never truly feel the presence of God through Jesus.
While it is good to attend Mass any day, it is especially important to attend Mass every Sunday. In Exodus 31:15 is written “The seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, Holy to the Lord.” Throughout the Bible, the Sabbath is notably the most special day., and scripture talks about it in Genesis I when the Lord “rested on the seventh day…”
…Pope Benedict XVI recalled the event when the “Martyrs of Abitene” were martyred in 30-3. The Pope talked about how when the Proconsul asked “Why have you received Christians in your home transgressing the imperial disposition?” Emeritus, one of the martyrs, answered “We cannot live without Sunday”.
In more recent times, on these shores, many priests and bishops lost their lives during the penal laws, just for saying the Mass. Many of the laity also lost their lives for trying to hide these priests from the authorities. Nowadays, many Christians are being persecutes for their faith. They know what is important and that the road to salvation is not always an easy one. And yet, when the road is as easy as we have it in England at the moment, Catholics can be tempted to forget what is important, what is the truth, what the everlasting covenant is and what their duty is.
The Word of God
I have mainly concentrated on the Eucharist in what I have written so far. There are other sections of the Mass also. There is the opening section when we get to reflect on what we have done and what we have failed to do. This is particularly important when we consider the expression ‘the holy sacrifice of the Mass’. Christ’s sacrifice by dying on the cross was an act of atonement for our sins. By attending Mass every Sunday we get the chance to reflect on how we have performed over the last week. This is very important as it gives us a chance to ask for mercy for those aspects of our life where we have not done as well as we should have….
…Then we have an opportunity to listen to an Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament reading as we’ll as an extract from the Gospel. The main points are reflected on by the priest in his homily. This all helps to give us a better understanding of the Word of God and thereby improve our lives. This isn’t going to happen under the duvet covers while our parents are at Mass.
During the Mass, we have the chance to recite the Creed, enabling us to recall the fundamental aspects of our faith. We have the prayers of the faithful also. Later on, we get the chance to make the sign of peace with many people from our community. During the Mass, we are providing support for our parishioners just by being at Mass, just as they are doing likewise for us…
…The Mass is so full of opportunity. Where else could you get the Body of Christ and the cup of everlasting life? Where else do we get the opportunity to be fed with the Word of God, explained to us by some one filled with the Holy Spirit at his ordination?
From this, the question is not “Why does a Catholic attend Mass each Sunday?” but “Why shouldn’t a Catholic want to go to Mass every day of the week?”