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Faith/Spirituality Forum: Obligation to attend Mass

by Catherine Frakas 09 Apr 2001

Obligation to attend Mass QUESTION from Vince Parise on January 4, 2003 I have two working colleagues who simply do not believe that is a sin to miss Mass on Sunday or on Holy Days of obligation. I was taught, as a child going to religious classes, that missing Mass deliberately for no good reason was considered a mortal sin.
My colleagues argue this and stand firm upon the belief that missing Mass, even deliberately, could never bring upon them a mortal or deadly sin equal to murder or worse.
To offend God by this deliberate act of disrespect has always been, at least in my mind, one of a serious nature.
Could you please explain Church teaching and doctrine with regard to a lack of concern, by one so inclined, as to think that attending Mass on Sunday or Holy Day of obligation requires little, or no responsibility, concern, or obligation. Therefore, in their mind, such action would or could not bring upon them a deadly sin. And, if this sin remains unrepented, could this sin cause them the loss of God's gift of eternal life.
Thank you,
Vince Parise
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on January 14, 2003 Dear Mr. Parise:
Your friends remind me of the old trick to dodge responsibility: But Officer, why are you stopping me, that other guy was going faster than me?
The Officer responds: Maybe the other guy was going faster. There is another Officer down the road to get him. But the fact he is going faster does not excuse YOUR speeding.
St. James tells us: For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. (James 2:10)
Missing Mass is not the same as murder. But just because there is a more serious sin does not mean that we are excused for the sin we did commit. Those who think this way are childish and immature trying, like a child, to point the finger at the brother for doing the worse thing in hopes that dad won't spank him.
The Church has the authority of the keys (Matt 16) and thus has God's permission and blessing to determine the basic standards of moral behavior.
The Church has declared that Mass attendance at least on Sunday is a serious obligation. There is a reason for this. The Church does not just flip a coin to decide what rule they are make up to make people miserable. Coming together in assembly, by the way, is also mandated in the Bible.
Going to Mass gives us the Sacraments and the grace to live a righteous life. If we fail to attend Mass we deny ourselves the very fuel that we need to keep the engine of our spiritual lives operating. Overtime, due to weakness, we will find ourselves in other sins.
In addition, to REFUSE to go to Mass, brings us to yet another sin -- REBELLION.
The sin of rebellion and the sins that we may eventually commit because of our weaken spiritual condition by not going to Mass places our soul at risk.
The Church in her compassion wants to help us to avoid anything that risks our soul.
One does not have to commit murder to find himself in hell. One can merely drive off the cliff through his inattention to watch where he is going, or through ignoring the road signs that the bridge ahead is out. He is still just as dead as the murderer is for his crime.
The Church says, WATCH OUT, the road you are on leads to a bridge that is out. Avoid that road. Take this road instead that leads to heaven.
None of this will convince your friends because the reasons they are not attending Mass has NOTHING to do with murder being a more serious crime than avoiding Mass. There is a deeper problem that will likely cause them to rationalize away anything you say to them.
Tell them the truth, and then pray for them.
Here is an article on the Mass Obligation that might be interesting: Click here
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