Tag Archives: Church Attendance

The Eucharist: Living To Eat Or Eating To Live?

Some people think that going to church is what Christianity is all about.  That’s like saying that eating is what life is all about.  Eating (though enjoyable) merely keeps us alive so we can actually live life.  People who focus too much on eating end up obese and unhealthy.  They can’t live life as well.

People who focus their Christianity on “going to church” have a similar issue.  Mass is where we are spiritually fed so we can leave church and live the Christian life.  After Mass we are told, “The Mass is ended, go!”  We have been fed, now it’s time to get to work!  Many folks consider their church attendance to actually be their Christian work.  That’s like going to a job and only “clocking in” during lunch break.  Who would hire such an employee?

Imagine if soldiers never left their training grounds and mess halls during a war.  They would be very good at running obstacle courses, marching, doing drills, cleaning their weapons, etc.  They would not be much use in defending their country.  In fact, an invading force could simply take over.

Spiritual warfare is no different.  If Christians are preoccupied with “going to church,” who is out in the world “fighting the good fight?”  Who is out there putting God’s love into action, healing and defending the hearts that the enemy seeks to devour?  A lot of well fed soldiers are not much use unless they are willing and able to risk themselves and engage in battle.

Catholicism is meant to be shared with the world.  It was never intended to be a “private religion” we keep to ourselves.  The spiritual food we consume on Sunday is given to us to sustain and equip us for daily life.  That means that from the time we wake in the morning until the time we fall asleep at night we are to be conscience of the fact that we are Christians on a mission.  We are always disciples who serve a Master.  We need to resist the tendency to flip our “Christian switch” on or off as it suits us.  We can’t be Christian only when it’s convenient or comfortable or acceptable to others.

I’m not suggesting that we Catholics all become obnoxious, Bible-waving, verse-quoting, overbearing, over-zealous, Christians that people avoid like the plague whenever they see us coming.  I’m suggesting that we allow the gift of Himself that Christ feeds us at every mass to change our hearts into Christ’s heart.  Then we will not mentally leave Christ behind in the tabernacle as we leave church and go out into our daily, distracted lives.  We will actually be Christ in our daily lives.  Then, life won’t be all about eating.  Eating will be all about life.

God Is Everywhere. So, Why Go To Church On Sunday?

Since God is everywhere, why can’t I worship him anywhere?  I can.  I can worship God anywhere, anytime.  I can pray to God whenever I want to.  I can even be with God, as one Facebooker said, “At Wal-Mart.”  However, there’s more than one kind of worship and there’s more than one kind of prayer.

For non Catholic Christians, the primary purpose of going to church is generally to hear preaching and to fellowship with each other.  Indeed, scripture does tell Christians to ” not forsake the gathering of yourselves together” (Hebrews 10: 25).  Nevertheless, going to church for many Christians is considered highly recommended but not obligatory.  If the preaching is boring and nobody feels inspired then there is a sense that they didn’t really “have church.” If the sermon or the singing is inspiring, then people may leave the service feeling as though they ” really had church.” In any case, communing with each other while hearing preaching and singing together is the bottom line.  So, while it is true that God is everywhere, one can only worship communally where the community is.  Hence, one good reason for going to church on Sunday.  It’s not about where God is located, it’s about where you are located.  Are you with the community of believers or are you off being an individualistic Christian?  There is worship and then there is communal worship.  For 2000 years the community of believers has met for communal worship on the first day of the week, Sunday.

Catholic Christians (the 2000 year old Church) also meet on Sunday to hear scripture and preaching and singing and prayer and to fellowship with each other.  However, although Catholics acknowledge that God is everywhere, they also recognize that Jesus is present in a unique way during the Catholic Mass.  During the Catholic Mass Jesus is present physically, not just spiritually.  Consequently, Catholic Christians are communing with each other and with God in a unique way as they receive into themselves the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ.  This they do as Christ instructed at the Last Supper and in the Bread of Life discourse in the Gospel of John chapter six.  There is no higher form of worship or prayer than this as it is a partaking of the supreme sacrifice of Christ himself.  Therein lies the second good reason for going to church on Sunday.  The Mass happens at church.  If the preaching or the music is lackluster ” church” has still taken place because Jesus has been physically and spiritually present regardless of how anyone feels about it.  His presence is an objective reality not a subjective experience of the believer.  There is a certain grace that is only accessible in this Eucharistic banquet.

Having said all of this, isn’t the fact that God wants us to worship together on Sunday enough of a reason to go to church?  I have not been able to find anything in scripture to suggest that any Christian should be content with a ” Jesus and me” Christianity.  Christianity is about community.  Having a personal relationship with Christ and being saved is a starting point.  A Christian is born again into a family of believers.  Family meal time happens at specific times and in specific places.  A Christian who says, ” I don’t have to eat with my family” is like the adolescent that is only interested in ” doing my own thing.” The parents have to say, ” You are part of the family.  Eat with us.” This is akin to the Catholic Church declaring a Sunday obligation for attending Mass (except for valid reasons for missing).  It is also the reason many preachers can be heard to say, ” There’s no such thing as a lone ranger Christian.”

So, if you’re a Christian, don’t miss church on Sunday without a valid reason.  Not because I said so, but because Jesus himself invited you.  Why turn down such an invitation?  You can go with me if you want to!