One of my parishioners recently sent me a photo of a syndicated faith column which appeared in a local newspaper. The author gave 13 reasons to go to Church each week based off her own experience. I’m glad she goes to church and wants others to do so, but I found her reasons to be very subjective, focusing only on herself, instead of the godly reasons to go to Church. Here are a few of her comments: “I have high expectations that I will have a good time, seeing not only my friends but being a part of a gathering of about 70 people.” “I like choosing where we will sit…”. “I like sharing the hymnal with my husband.”
Don’t get me wrong, the reasons the author cites are cute and comprise what might help a person get to the church door, but there is a greater purpose of going to Church—it is a part of being in relationship with the living God. In a similar fashion to the column, I’d like to propose thirteen God-centered reasons to go to Church each week.
1. To fulfill my obligation of heeding God’s commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day.
While this can be a motivating factor, hopefully we don’t look at Mass as something we are obligated to do. Rather, Mass is an opportunity given to us. God commanded Moses to keep holy the Sabbath and the Church teaches that missing Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin. These can be motivating factors, but they are driven by fear. Instead of fear, have your motivating factor be out of love for God.
2. To make a joyful noise to the Lord in the songs we sing.
Sometimes the music at a parish is so good that it draws people in; people want to go to Mass and sing hymns. Other parishes, the music might be mediocre. Don’t let that dissuade you from going to Mass. Your participation in the music can only enhance the music. Singing songs is a form of prayer, and a way we worship God. Go to Church, and sing the praises of God.
3. To acknowledge I am a sinner and in need of God’s mercy.
At the very beginning of Mass, we are invited to acknowledge our sins and prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries. In those few moments of pause before the Confiteor or the Kyrie, we are able to think of a few things from the past week when we didn’t live up to God’s expectations. Fortunately enough, we can be forgiven, and receive God’s mercy.
4. To hear the Word of God and see how it speaks to me in today’s world and in light of my life experiences.
At every Mass we hear the three readings, four if you count the Psalm. The author to the Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is living and effective, it pierces more surely than a two edged sword. The Church’s scripture readings are on a three year cycle, and over time they become familiar to us. Yet, every time we hear them, we are at a different point in our life, and something the Scripture says this time might be much different from before. Going to Mass allows us to open our hearts to God’s word, becoming a source of prayer and meditation, and a directing force in our life.
5. To be inspired and guided by the preacher’s homily.
Not only do we get to hear the word of God, but then the preacher breaks the Word open for us. Hopefully he makes connections from the scripture to daily life so that living the Word of God becomes practical. Most recently, I’ve noticed in my homilies, I’ve been trying to help guide people in their intercessory prayer. Each week when you leave Church, hopefully there is one thing you can take away and put into action in your life.
6. To boldly profess our belief that Jesus came as an infant, died, and rose from the dead.
Every Sunday we profess our faith in the words of the Nicene or Apostles Creed. It is a bold statement of what we believe, and every time we say those words, it reminds us about the tenants of Christianity. Bishop Barron often points out that people died for the Creed we profess. Every Sunday we are reminded that Jesus died for us and has promised eternal life.
7. To pray for the world, the Church, and family and friends who are going through a difficult time.
There is a tabernacle in every Catholic Church. Every week we sit or kneel before God and pour out our hearts before Him. We might do this before Mass in the prayer we might say after initially entering into the Church and sitting in the pew, but we also offer our prayers during the Universal Prayers (formerly Prayers of the Faithful), in which we pray for so many different needs of the Church, world, and the local community. Even better, we join the faith community in saying, “Lord, Hear our Prayer.” When we pray in groups there is great power!
8. To give thanks to God for all the blessings I have received, because to give thanks is the meaning of Eucharist.
There is so much in our life to be thankful for. Even in difficult times, we can be filled with gratitude. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving, so each week when we gather for the Eucharistic celebration, it is an opportunity to consider our blessings and express gratitude to Almighty God.
9. To receive Holy Communion, allowing God to make His home within me.
We believe in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. We eat His body and drink His blood. Every time we receive Holy Communion, we have a close union with God because He becomes a part of us. Go to Church every Sunday and have those intimate moments with Jesus, conversing with Him about everything in your life, thanking Him for the gift of receiving Him, and for help throughout the next week. Why would you miss such an encounter? We are privileged and blessed.
10. To receive from God the grace I need to get through the week.
God gives us many graces when we pray and celebrate the sacraments. It is those graces that sustain us throughout the week. If you have missed Mass, did you notice that something didn’t seem right all week long? Don’t miss out on these gifts that God wants to give you.
11. To share in communion with believers at Mass, with those in Heaven, and with believers throughout the world.
The celebration of the Eucharist isn’t just a church service here on earth. There is something greater that happens there. Our earthly liturgy is a participation in the heavenly liturgy. We join the angels and saints in their song of praise (the Sanctus).
Participating in the heavenly liturgy means that we can be close to our family and friends who have gone before us to the heavenly kingdom. As a Catholic Church, we also know the Mass is offered all throughout the world, uniting us with believers everywhere. Going to Mass each week reminds us we are a part of something that is much bigger than our local community.
12. To know that you are not alone and that a community of faith surrounds and supports you.
Every Sunday people from your community gather and pray together. And when difficulties arise or tragedies happen, it is this same community of faith which we are a part of will gather around you. They will surround you with prayer. They will help in whatever ways possible. They will give you the comfort to know that you can get through whatever you are facing.
13. To hear the command, “Go,” reminding me that Jesus wants me to take what I have received and share it with others, fulfilling Jesus’ mandate to make disciples.
Just as Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples, at the conclusion of every Mass, the priest (or deacon) commissions us to go, and announce the gospel or glorify God with our lives. We are sent out on a mission. What I have experienced and received at Church guides the rest of the week and, when appropriate, can be shared with family and friends.
Why do you go to Church?
If someone asked you your reasons for going to Church, what would you say? Maybe it’s something to think about as a family when you’re on the way to or from Mass this weekend.