Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass every single Sunday, barring cases of illness and emergency. I know many people that feel bad if they miss Mass simply because they love coming to Mass. That's the right attitude to Mass. But not every Catholic is there, and I get that.
Then there are those who tell me, "I believe in God but I don't think I have to go to church every Sunday in order to be a good person." First of all, they are confusing Catholicism with moralistic, therapeutic deism. Secondly, they are missing out on the biggest opportunity of all time. Behind the Catholic obligation are three core beliefs. For a Catholic who regularly chooses not to come to Mass, these are the things you don't believe in:
#1: The Ten Commandments
If you don't come to Mass on Sunday, you don't really believe in the Ten Commandments. Let's review them:
- I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me....
- You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
- 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, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.
- Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
- You shall not kill.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
- You shall not covet your neighbor's house, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s. (Exodus 20:2-17)
Your honoring the Sabbath matters so much to God that it makes his top ten list, right up there with murder and adultery. Keeping the Sabbath holy means more than just Sunday Mass, but it certainly doesn't mean less. Do you love God? Does God come first in your life? Every Sunday morning your actions speak louder than your words.
#2: The Resurrection from the Dead Changes Everything
Have you ever stopped and wondered why Christians gather on Sunday? Jesus died on Good Friday. He rose again on the first day of the week, Sunday. He appeared to the Disciples each Sunday after the resurrection (John 20). Christians began to gather every Sunday to commemorate the Resurrection (Acts 20:7). The Resurrection changes everything. We too will rise from the dead and be judged by Jesus (Matthew 25). We should be planning for this judgment and preparing for eternal life. This reality changes how we understand death and how live our lives. Each day is a step closer to Eternity. We can easily lose sight of the ultimate realities amidst the cares and worries of daily life. Sunday Mass is about keeping first things first.
The Bible describes Heaven like a great Mass, complete with readings from a scroll, candles, incense, singing, and everyone gathered together. The great unity of Heaven is foreshadowed in the unity at Mass. Every Sunday when we abstain from work and worship God in community, we are practicing for Heaven. Will you know what to do when you get there, if you've never practiced?
#3: Jesus Is Really Present In The Eucharist
"I can pray better in my tree stand, or on the golf course." Those are great times to pray. But imagine for a moment that Jesus was coming to visit your town. He had gifts he wanted to give to all believers. You were invited to meet with him personally, receive a word of encouragement and a blessing on your life. Would you miss this golden opportunity?
Because the Mass looks so ordinary and repetitive, we miss the amazing gifts hidden under the humble appearances. At Mass Christ himself becomes present. The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ, and Christians can literally eat their maker. You can't get this anywhere else. Jesus desires us to feed off him, to draw our life from Him. This is why the Church always offers Communion every Sunday and even at weddings and funerals. We draw our life from God. God commands us to do what is good for us: feed off Him and receive eternal life. That's what Mass is all about. Don't spiritually starve to death. Don't lose sight of eternity. Don't break the 10 Commandments. For the love of God, come to Mass on Sunday.