Why do we attend Mass?

Listen to mp3 file
1st in a series of short homilies on the Mass

Now that we have concluded the Christmas Season, and as we enter Ordinary Time, I want to devote some attention in these homilies at Mass—to the Mass itself. So that each of us can understand the Mass better and enter into it more intentionally and more deeply.

And I would like to begin today by asking: Why do we come to Mass? Why do you come to Mass; why do others?

On a Sunday, many might answer:  because I have an obligation; I must attend or else I commit a sin.  But then we could respond by asking:  Isn’t there another reason?  Or, what is the reason that the Church requires it of you?  But, on a weekday, there is no such obligation; and so we can go directly to those other reasons.

The answers you give we can divide into two clusters.

  • There are some answers that say something objective about the Mass itself—some characteristic or feature of it;
  • and there are some answers that say something subjective about your own reaction, or some effect it has on you. In this second group, we might say: it makes me feel close to God; it gives me peace; it gives me strength and spiritual food; it makes me feel connected. Things like that.

I’m going to leave that second group aside—since, basically, the benefits we gain subjectively come from the objective features of the Mass itself. So, let’s turn to those. There, we might say:

  • We gather together with other members of the Church and interact with each other.
  • We sing songs of praise and other kinds—more often on Sundays.
  • We pray together to the Lord.
  • We hear readings from Scripture and a homily that relates these to our lives.
  • We receive the Lord Jesus Christ in Holy Communion.

These are some important objective features of the Mass. They are accurate descriptions; and they do give us benefits, and we are right to seek them out. And yet, they leave out something. All the things I have said, we could get in other ways. What does the Mass have, that cannot be gotten anywhere else?

Think of it especially from the perspective of someone doesn’t go to Mass anymore. What do they say, when you ask them? “Well, I can read the Bible on my own. I can pray on my own. I don’t need to go to church to do that.” They’re right. But what can they not get anywhere else except the Mass?

  • If we want to get together with other Catholics, we can do that in other ways—including meetings, service projects, coffee hours, parties, dinners.
  • We can sing songs together—such as in concerts, or Holy Hours with praise and worship music.
  • We can have pray together in prayer groups, societies, or devotions like novenas.
  • We can learn from Scripture in Bible studies, classes, and Liturgies of the Word.
  • We can receive Holy Communion in a Communion Service.

Indeed, everything about the Mass we can get in a Communion Service—all of it, the whole thing—except one part. The Eucharistic Prayer. The part that begins with the preparation of the altar with the bringing of the gifts, and stretches until the Great Amen (after which we say the Our Father). The Eucharistic Prayer, and all that occurs within it, is found nowhere else besides the Mass. In no place; no activity; no gathering. You can’t do it on your own; you can’t find it anywhere else. Only in the Mass.

And so it is to the Eucharistic Prayer that we need to look—in future homilies—to understand what the Mass is; why we should attend; and how we can truly enter into the Mass intentionally and deeply.


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Published in: on January 10, 2012 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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