Faith & Family
(Photo by Dennis Callahan/Catholic San Francisco)
A family participating in the Mass.
What does the Catholic Church teach about going to Mass?
November 15th, 2016
By Thomas Lickona
The command of God. The third of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God is, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day” (Exodus 20:8).
The command of Christ. Why should we keep the Sabbath holy by going to Mass? The Mass was instituted at the Last Supper by Jesus before his crucifixion. The Last Supper was the first Mass. “When the hour came, he [Jesus] took his place at the table with the Apostles . . . Then he took the 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).
The command of the Catholic Church. The church teaches that we must fulfill the command of Jesus (“Do this in memory of me”) by attending Sunday Mass (or the vigil Mass the night before). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994, pp. 493-94) explains that Mass attendance on Sundays and holy days of obligation is the first of the six commandments of the church.
The Catholic Church speaks with the authority of Jesus. Why should we obey these teachings of the church? Where does the church get its authority? From Jesus. In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus made Peter the head of his church — the first pope. He gave Peter and the church “the keys to the kingdom of heaven: “ I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
What we do at Mass. The Mass is 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. In an unbloody way, we repeat — make present — Christ’s death and resurrection. Through this memorial of Jesus, we offer God our praise, sorrow for our sins, and deepest thanks. The Mass is also a meal. At the consecration, the bread and wine, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become the body and blood of Christ. Not a mere symbol, but Jesus’s real flesh and real blood, under the appearance of bread and wine. When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus himself. He is real food for our soul. He said this very plainly: ”I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6:55-56).
Abbreviated version of an article published by Catholic Education Resource Center. Reprinted with permission of Thomas Lickona and Catholic Education Resource Center.
From November 17, 2016 issue of Catholic San Francisco.