Why Go to Mass ?
Bishop Michael Evans
A simple explanation of the Eucharist and our encounter with Christ in it.
Communion with Christ
We receive Holy Communion above all in order to grow closer to Jesus Christ (n. 1391), sharing his life and deepening our friendship with him (n. 1395).
The celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ himself through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us (n. 1382).
Sometimes people stop going to Mass because they say that they ‘get nothing out of it’. This often means that they have not come away with their hearts uplifted, with great feelings of spiritual nourishment. They blame boring celebration, tedious preaching, uninspiring music, lack of a sense of community, hypocrisy, unsympathetic priests. These are sometimes valid criticisms, and priests and people have a responsibility to put all of their gifts and talents into the greatest thing they do together – celebrating the Eucharist. But flaws and failings in our way of celebrating the Mass are no good reason for opting out. The Eucharist is as vital to our spiritual life as ordinary food is to out physical and mental life: ‘What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life’ (n. 1392). We would be foolish to give up eating and drinking simply because most meals were uninspiring.
Christ offers us himself in the Eucharist, and that regular feeding on Christ is as vital to our spiritual journey as the daily diet of manna (far from inspiring fodder, however much it came ‘from heaven’) was to the forty-year desert journey of God’s chosen people. Christ is our life, and without him we die.
The Last Supper was the last of many meals that Jesus ate with his friends. They were accustomed to being with him at table, listening to him, breaking bread with him, sharing their lives with him. Once they knew that he was risen from the dead, alive with them in a new way, it was natural that they should want to continue this intimate meals with their Lord. When we come to Mass, to the Lord’s Supper – we join the apostles, the saints throughout the ages, and the Church throughout the world to be together with our risen Lord, to listen to his Word, to share his life given for us to open our lives to his presence.
Communion with one another
The Eucharist also leads to unity with one another in Christ, the unity of the Body of Christ:
Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body – the Church. Communion renews, strengthens and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism (n. 1396).
Communion with Christ in his sacrifice and communion with one another go hand in hand, as St. Paul clearly taught:
The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (1 Cor 10:16-17).