Thursday, February 5, 2015
Why go to church when we can just pray to God at home?
I know all about not wanting to go to Mass and how it can feel like an undue burden. I lived that way for a long time before my conversion after a serious car accident which helped me to bring my life back into the direction it was supposed to be headed in the first place which is towards Heaven and making the concrete steps to get there. Before this conversion, I would say that I truly loved God and wanted to go to Heaven... "but"... and herein lies the deception that many of us may have unknowingly bitten in to far too many times. That "but" is what we need to take a hard serious look at and understand why those excuses are what is truly keeping us from getting to Heaven and from loving God even though we say we do. "But" means that we are making an excuse and placing what we want before what God wants. There than be some serious legitimate reasons for not making it to church or to Mass but these are SERIOUS exceptions and not the norm for why many of us make the choice to to church either sporadically or not at all. Furthermore, if, for a serious reason, we cannot make it to church, there are still some other ways we can worship God and make our Sunday obligation to Him because we still do love Him and desire to get to Heaven. Before I address those who are elderly, sick, and legitimately cannot make it Mass and what they can do to still worship Him, I want to look at the reasons why we do need to make every effort to go to Mass and church on Sundays and remove every excuse we can in our lives from not getting there.
You have received a personal invitation from God...
 And Jesus answering, spoke again in parables to them, saying:  The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son.  And he sent his servants, to call them that were invited to the marriage; and they would not come.  Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my calves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come ye to the marriage.  But they neglected, and went their own ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise.
 And the rest laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contemptuously, put them to death.  But when the king had heard of it, he was angry, and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city.  Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy.  Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage. (Matthew Ch.22)
This invitation is not only to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb which is in Heaven but also to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb that we enter into and participate in at the Mass which unites us to Heaven. For some, this still may not be enough so let us look further into the serious reasons why we really do need to go to Mass and therefore to church every Sunday and on Holy Days of obligation.
1) God asks it of us. In fact, it is a COMMANDMENT and not just a nice suggestion. From the very beginning of the Church until now, Christians have understood that "Keep Holy the Sabbath" is a serious obligation to not only go to Church each and every Sunday but also to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
#2180 The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass." "The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on teh holy day or on the evening of the preceding day."
#2181 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 a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in the obligation commit a grave sin.
2) We need it! Those who do not go to Mass need to seriously ask themselves this question: "Can I really live with less of God in my life?" Rather than having less of Him, we absolutely need MORE of God in our life if we truly love Him and desire to make it to Heaven. In fact, we are spiritually dead without the Eucharist which is the very Body and Blood of Jesus Christ... it is truly Him who is present. Jesus tells us quite clearly how much we need to go to Mass and to go to Church for this very reason: "Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you."
If we think we can have a life with God merely by entering into the gift of praying, we also need to take a hard look at one of the most important parables that Jesus gives us about the Kingdom of God. In the parable of the 10 talents we read the following:
 For even as a man going into a far country, called his servants, and delivered to them his goods;  And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey.
 And he that had received the five talents, went his way, and traded with the same, and gained other five.  And in like manner he that had received the two, gained other two.  But he that had received the one, going his way digged into the earth, and hid his lord' s money.  But after a long time the lord of those servants came, and reckoned with them.  And he that had received the five talents coming, brought other five talents, saying: Lord, thou didst deliver to me five talents, behold I have gained other five over and above.
 His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.  And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou deliveredst two talents to me: behold I have gained other two.  His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.  But he that had received the one talent, came and said: Lord, I know that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed.  And being afraid I went and hid thy talent in the earth: behold here thou hast that which is thine.
 And his lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed:  Thou oughtest therefore to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received my own with usury.  Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents.  For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.  And the unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew Ch.25)
Prayer is only one of the gifts God has given us. We need to receive all of them if we love Him and not limit ourselves just to prayer as a minimalist approach to loving God which only reveals having a shallow relationship with Him. He wants us to go deeper and to receive all the gifts He has in store for us. Prayer is good and you should be commended for having a life of prayer, yet God has given us the Sacraments of His Church so that we can be spiritually sustained by sacramental grace which we can ONLY receive by receiving and living a sacramental life. In and through the Eucharist (when received worthily and NOT in the state of serious sin for which we need to have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation), we are transformed into Christ Himself. He unites us to Himself and we unite Him to our hearts, minds, and souls which are then transformed by Him. We grow in strength by His grace which strengthens us to grow in virtue and greatly aids us in resisting sin in our daily life. I mean, who wants to go into battle with forces of darkness naked? We need the armor of Christ just to survive daily.
The Eucharist is truly food for our soul... it is our "daily bread" that we ask for and seek when we pray the "Our Father". We cannot live without physical food. Try doing without food for a day and see what will happen... then try it for seven days. The Eucharist is spiritual food for our soul and we need it a lot more than physical food. Jesus gave it us as such. In fact, Last Rites is receiving Viaticum which is the Eucharist and is called "food for the journey". It spiritually feeds us for our daily life and prepares us for a blessed death for our journey home to Our Father's House.
3) Going to Church is a sign that we truly love God and are indeed united to Him through His Church. It truly is a sign that we are a Christian and united to His Church. Not going to Church and refusing to receive the Eucharist or putting obstacles up only reveals that we that we are not united to Him nor to His Church.
#2182 Participation in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist is a testimony of belonging and of being faithful to Christ and His Church. The faithful give witness by this to their communion in faith and charity. Together they testify to God's holiness and their hope of salvation. They strengthen one another under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
At the same time, the very act of turning away from the Church and from Mass is an act of rejecting Him.
4) We go because we are a follower of Jesus... we are His disciples. Jesus left us an example for us to follow Him and thus make it to Heaven. Even Jesus, as He was growing up and when He was an adult made it His customary practice not only to pray to His Heavenly Father in solitude but also in communion with His disciples AND was accustomed to going to the Temple in order to worship His Heavenly Father. As a child, Jesus left the Blessed Virgin Mary and Joseph and was found in the Temple and His reply to them was this, "Did you not know that I must be about My Father's Work?" It is a work of God to go to Church and to worship Him there. He also commanded us to go if we desire to follow Him. At the very first Mass, the Last Supper, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, "DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME." We cannot "do this" without the Church which was given this great Sacrament nor can we be a follower of Jesus without following the very example He gave us nor by dismissing what He asks of us as a condition of following Him.
"And why call you me, Lord, Lord; and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
"Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Matthew 16:24)
5) We owe it to Him. After my conversion, I took a serious look at all that God has already done out of love for me and all that He has given me. He has given us the gift of our very life, the gift of our family and friends, the gift of creation and this awesome universe, the gift of pets and animals to play with and to be our nourishment, the plants to cover us and feed us and heal us... the water, the mountains, the clouds and stars... and on and on and on... and this is just the physical gifts. Then we can move on the spiritual gifts we have received from Him... His only Son was crucified, died and was buried and rose in order to open door to Heaven for us and to remove the debt that we owed God for our sins. He gave us the gifts of Baptism, the Eucharist, the forgiveness of Sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the gift of the Priesthood, the gift of the union of spouses in Marriage, healing through the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and the very gift of the Church herself... then the saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our own Mother whom Jesus gave to us from the Cross... the angels to guard and lead us... and on and on and on.... Now, how much do you honestly give back to Him? We owe Him a lot just as a debt of love. Indeed it would be enough just to be a slave and to serve Him every second of our life and that would not be enough to pay back what we owe Him. But what does He ask of us in return for all that we receive? Very little in comparison. He asks us to keep Holy the sabbath... which is now transformed into Sunday and the Lord's Day in honor of the Resurrection and that is only one day out of seven that He asks to be kept set aside in His honor. We owe Him worship and offering up our sacrifices and prayers happens to be united to the Sacrifice of His Only Son at each and every Mass. You can't do that by your prayers alone. Furthermore, He is truly and physically present at the Mass and in the Holy Eucharist. He remains there for you and for me. It doesn't take much for us to take a few small steps to be there in His Presence. Why would we really want to skip Him any chance of being with Him anyway?
In fact the very meaning of the word "Eucharist" in Greek means "thanksgiving". Jesus gave broke the bread and gave thanks to His Heavenly Father when He gave us this gift of His Body and Blood. In offering up His Body and Blood back to the Father we, in turn, are thanking God the best way possible by offering up His Only Son and thanking Him for this very gift at the same time. If you are truly thankful... there is no better way then to go to Mass and receive the Eucharist. This is the core of Thanksgiving to God!
What I leave you with is just a beginning and taste of what God has prepared for you. There is so much more I could share but He desires that you find out for yourself. Please, if you have been away from the Church and have not been to Mass in a while, run to Sacrament of Reconciliation and come back home! You won't believe the joy that will fill your heart for it is His Joy and Peace that you receive in the Eucharist.
Now, what about those who honestly cannot make it Mass? I am not talking about those who go on vacation, to on a hunting or fishing trip, a family reunion, etc. These are never a legitimate excuse for missing out on a life with God. If He is important enough in your life, you can plan all these things around Him. He made them all possible in the first place and you would be thanking Him for these very gifts in your life by going to Mass anyway. I am speaking to those who truly are sick, elderly, have small children, etc. Now if you have the strength and ability and can make it to the grocery store or casino or make a trip in your car for other things then you have no excuse for missing Mass. But if you can't make it, God understands your frustration and desire to be with Him. In fact, He says so at the Last Supper with His very words to His disciples when He gave them His Body and Blood... "And He said to them: With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer." How do you know you have a legitimate excuse for not going to Mass? Well, first of all, if you can't physically get there because of age or illness, you can use this to unite yourself with Him at the Mass even if you can't be there physically. Unite your sufferings, pains, and aches with His suffering and ask Him to unite with Him at each and every Mass even if you can't be there. You can also call your local parish church and ask for an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion to come to your home so that you can receive Holy Communion on the Lord's Day. In fact, they have a responsibility to do so. If they cannot come, ask one of your own family members to be trained as one so that can bring Our Lord to you. If this isn't possible, ask Our Lord for what is called spiritual Holy Communion. In this, you are asking Our Lord for the grace which you would have received if you could receive the Eucharist but are not able to do so. Also, try to spend an hour with Lord in prayer. I try to have a spiritual Holy Hour of Adoration by placing myself before His Presence spiritually when I cannot make it adoration... like when I am traveling during a trip. It is just seeking to be alone with Him. If you can find a Mass on the television or the radio (EWTN offers both television, internet and radio broadcasts of the Mass daily) that would be even better so that you can at least share in the Liturgy of the Church. Caretakers and those with small children/infants/sick children also may not physically be able to make it to Mass have a legitimate reason for missing as well. But you can still seek the Lord in your home. Perhaps you can have someone make it one Mass time and then come back and relieve you so that you can make it for another Mass time with Our Lord.... just realize that are other options and ways you can still honor the Lord on His day.