By Bob Sullivan
This is a common question and a fair one. After all, nowhere does the Bible explicitly state, “go to Mass every Sunday.” However, the Bible does implicitly say we need to go to Mass every Sunday. And Christians have always worshipped on Sunday. (CCC 2041 and 2042)
Since every Sunday is a holy day, that means we are obligated to go to Mass each Sunday as well as a handful of other days each year. Depending on the calendar, there are usually three or four holy days of obligation which do not fall on a Sunday each year. In the Diocese of Lincoln, these holy days, which are not usually on Sunday are:
- The Feast of Mary, the Mother of God (Jan. 1)
- The Ascension of Our Lord (the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter)
- The Assumption of Mary (Aug. 15)
- All Saints day (Nov.1)
- The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8)
- Christmas (Dec. 25)
I often find it strange that non-Catholics (and some Catholics) are critical of the Church’s requirement that we go to Mass at least once per week and possibly twice per week up to six times per year. How can it be bad when the leaders of the faith expect the faithful to give about one hour per week to the worship and honor of God? We can’t forget that Jesus had expectations of His followers: “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” (Matthew 26:40) The real question is: Why only go to Mass once per week?
Some key verses and history:
Genesis 2:2-3 shows that even God rested on the seventh day. You may be thinking, “Hey Bob, the seventh day is not the first day of the week like Sunday is.”
Ah, but it was the first full day of all creation, including Adam’s existence on earth. The first six days were all God’s building days. Once God’s creation was complete (including humans), we rested, then he got us started. Adam was not created with his hand on the plow.
Exodus 20:1-11 and Deuteronomy 5:6-15. These verses make up the first three Commandments. Honoring one God and keeping holy the Lord’s day are about as basic to the Christian faith as anything can be. By placing sleep, sports, unnecessary work and other things before God on the Lord’s day, we are, in essence, idolizing something other than God.
John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Nothing further needed.
Matthew 22:36-37 points out that Jesus places love of God as the greatest Commandment and there is no way to love God if you do not know Him, worship Him and receive Him.
This is best done in Holy Mass. There are ways to know and worship God outside the Mass, and as Catholics, we practice those as well, but the Mass is the best place to know Him and worship Him and it is the only way through which we can receive him in his body, blood, soul and divinity.
Matthew 18:20 This is an especially challenging verse for people who say they are “spiritual but not religious.” Such people believe that they can go directly to God without the need to belong to a church or a faith. Even if they gather with others for a Bible study or another type of Christian activity, they will usually tell you that they only need Jesus as their partner in faith. This leaves them at least one other person short of the two or three set forth by Jesus in this verse. The best way to make sure there are at least two or three of us gathered in His name, is to go to Mass with hundreds of Catholics.
Luke 22:29 “Do this in remembrance of me.” These are the words of Christ Himself at the Last Supper. Granted, he did not schedule Sunday Masses that evening, but it is clear that we are to celebrate the Eucharist and since He also gave the keys of the Kingdom to Peter in Matthew 16:18-19, granting him the primary authority, and since He also gave the authority to govern the faithful to all the Apostles in Matthew 18:18, it is evident that Christ left the scheduling up to the bishops.
Hebrews 10:19-25 in which St. Paul describes not only the sacrament of baptism but the regular sacrifice of Holy Mass. “Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Church Fathers: The earliest Christians also celebrated Holy Mass and they did so on the Lord’s day according to St. Justin Martyr who wrote a letter explaining the Mass to the Emperor of Rome, Trypho in about 150 A.D.
In the letter he wrote: “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place….” In chapters 65-67 of his letter, he describes the Mass, the day of the week on which they celebrated the Mass and the fact that the bread and wine were not “common bread and common drink.” They believed that once the priest consecrated the bread and wine, it was, “the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”
It is therefore evident that the Church has always worshipped on Sunday, that all were expected to participate and that to fail to do so without a serious reason such as a severe illness, is a grave sin.
Consider sharing this with friends and family.