But why do YOU go to Mass? A Reminder of the critical importance of rendering personal testimony in evangelization.
Some decades ago the argument from authority was often invoked as we answered some question about the faith. It was often considered sufficient merely invoke the existence of a rule. And thus, to my nagging question, “Why should I have to go to mass?” my parents would often answer, “Because it’s a rule!” Other variations of the answer would be, “Because the Church says so,” or, “Because it’s in the Ten Commandments.”
Never mind that there might actually be reasons that there was a rule, or a commandment. It was considered enough in those old days simply to say, “It is a rule.”
If, to some degree, it was sufficient back in those days to merely invoke authority, it is now, for better or worse, no longer the case today that it is enough simply to do so. It is true that there is a rule that we must attend Mass. For as the Catechism says,
This practice of the Christian assembly dates from the beginnings of the apostolic age. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds the faithful “not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another.”…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 this obligation commit a grave sin. (CCC 2178, 2181)
And the Ten Commandments say,
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…. the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, a day of sacred assembly. (Ex 20:18; Lev 23:3)
and Jesus says in John 6:53,
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.
As so it is clear, there is a Rule that we attend Mass. But it also remains true that the reasons the Church, the Lord, and Law all say this. For indeed, something is true not nearly because the Church or the Lord, or the Bible say so. But rather, the Lord, the Bible and the Church say so because it is true.
And from this perspective, perhaps it is a good thing that merely arguing from authority, or arguing from the existence of rules and Commandments, is not enough. We live in times where the reasons, and the logic behind such rules is often insisted upon.
Perhaps it is not unreasonable for those to whom we speak to demand such proof. For, as Scripture puts it, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). And thus it is good that we be able to give reasons for the things we teach, and the practices we rightfully insist upon. As never before, we are required not simply to say what we teach, but why.
So alright, parents, you rightfully should teach your children that they must go to Mass on Sunday, and also to pray, prepare for and receive Sacraments, and to belong to a believing community we call Parish, to insist that they ought to read Scripture know the Faith. Yes, it is right that a parent to teach their children these things. So alright you say to your children you must go to Mass on Sunday.
But but why do YOU go?
Notice that this question, does not ask merely for reasons to go to Mass, but asks for YOUR reasons. Why do you go, what is your personal testimony? For, frankly, it is not enough for us to give merely catechetical or apologetical reasons. Our children, as never before, need to have very personal testimony from their parents about the transformative power of faith in Jesus Christ. It’s time to testify, that is, to give her a personal testimony/ Yes, as never before, our children need to hear from us, parents, priests, catechists, parishioners.
So. why do you go to mass? Is there something you get out of it? How have you been blessed, and what are the fruits and effects having gone to Mass faithfully for many years? What effects have the Sacraments, prayer, liturgy in the Mass had on you?
Again, do not overlook personal quality that we must be invited to supply this testimony. Quoting the Saints and the teachings of the Church is indeed good and proper, but it is not enough. There comes a point in every Christian life when we who are mature in the faith need to testify: That what the Scriptures announce and the Church teaches is true. And I personally know it to be true because, in the laboratory of my own life, I have both tested and verified the truth of what is taught, and come to know personally that is true.
Therefore, the question remains, Why do YOU go to Mass?
Let me, as a priest, announce my own testimony. I want to say that since I was 24 years of age, when I entered the seminary, I have gone to Mass every day. I have both studied, and heard proclaimed, God’s Word every day. I have gathered with God’s people in the celebration of the sacred liturgy every day, and every Sunday. I pray every day for an hour, I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and go to Confession once a week. I have lived in fellowship with other believers, gathering with them for prayer, and have experienced the both silent and vocal testimony of their faith and their experience that God is real, and God is good.
And I want to say, that as a result of all of this, I am a changed man. I have seen sins put to death, and new virtues come alive. I have a new mind, I think different thoughts, my priorities are different, and are better. I am more discerning, and my understanding of the meaning and purpose of my life is deeper. I have overcome terrible anxieties, and fears, and now I live in confidence, hope and joy. My life is not pain-free, or trouble-free, but I understand these troubles in a new way, seeing them as moments for growth, and grace. I am less negative, more positive and hopeful.
I could go on… But let me say this, I give God all the glory. It is his grace that transforms me. And I will say, He has done this primarily through the liturgy, through the holy Mass. He has accomplished this through the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion and Confession. These have been like medicine to me. And remaining faithful to God and to all of his sacraments, his Word and to the fellowship with the Church, I have been utterly transformed by Him and am being transformed more perfectly day by day.
I go to Mass, because through it, the Lord is changing me, is healing me, is transforming me. I have come to personally understand what the Lord means, that if we do not eat his Flesh and drink his Blood, we have no life in us. Without the Sacrament of his Body and Blood, my life would be so diminished, nothing compared to what it is now, in effect dead. It is only by the grace of God, his Word, his Sacraments, Prayer, and fellowship in the Church, that I have any life at all.
Of course we need to go to Mass on Sunday, of course! Without it I would be as dead as a diabetic without insulin, as starved man without food. I go to Mass, because through it the Lord saves me, feeds me, heals me. I have been privileged to walk with the same community of faith for the better part of 20 years. And in those years, in moments of crisis that arose, they have sung to me, prayed for me, witnessed to me, and shared Communion with me, summoning me to faith and reminding me the trouble don’t last always.
Where would I be without the Lord’s Church, without the Mass all the Sacraments, without the Word of God? At best, I would be nowhere, or it worst, is a very dark place.
Thus, I go to Mass receive the Sacraments, pray and keep fellowship, read and study God’s Word because it changes and transforms me. In no way do I see these as tedious rituals. No indeed, these are transformative realities, encounters with the living and healing Jesus Christ, to whom be all glory and thanksgiving.
Why do YOU go to Mass? What is your testimony. It is not enough today (if it ever was) to invoke rules. We have to say why, and we have to testify to it in a very personal way. Why do you go to Mass? Tell somebody!