By Hannah Brockhaus/CNA
According to Pope Francis, a Christian can’t just be a good person and skip Mass on Sundays, because it is the Eucharist that provides the nourishment needed to truly live the Gospel well in our daily lives.
“How can we respond to those who say that there is no need to go to Mass, not even on Sundays, because what is important is to live well, to love our neighbors?” the Pope said Dec. 13.
“It is true that the quality of the Christian life is measured by the capacity to love,” as Jesus says in the Gospels, he said.
“But how can we practice the Gospel without drawing the necessary strength to do it, one Sunday after another, from the inexhaustible spring of the Eucharist?”
Pope Francis spoke during his Wednesday general audience, during which he continued his weekly catechesis on the Mass and Eucharist, focusing on the reasons why we must go to Mass every Sunday, besides the fact that it is a law of the Church, which he said is important, but “not enough alone.”
Instead we must go deeper: “We Christians need to participate in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with his living presence in us and among us, can we put into practice his commandment, and thus be his credible witnesses,” he said.
The Eucharist and Mass, he said, are where we find our strength for daily life.
Without it, Christians “are condemned to be dominated by the fatigue of everyday life.” Often consumed by worries and fears, this weekly meeting is where Christ gives us the strength to live each day with courage and with hope.
He explained how participating in the Eucharistic communion with Jesus here on earth helps us to anticipate heaven, where it will be “Sunday without sunset”: no more tears, grief, or pain, but only “the joy of living fully and forever with the Lord.”
At Sunday Mass we rest from the busyness and work of the week, which teaches us to place our trust in the Father, not in earthly things, the Pope said. In this same way, abstaining from unnecessary labor on Sundays helps us to live out our identity as sons and daughters of God, and not slaves.
The Pope also noted an important distinction about Mass, which is that Christians do not go in order to give something to God, “but to receive from Him what we really need.”
This teaching is evoked in a prayer from the Roman Missal, which addresses God, saying: “You do not need our praise, but for a gift of your love you call us to give you thanks; our hymns of blessing do not increase your greatness, but they obtain for us the grace that saves us,” Francis said.
Pope Francis then noted that there are some Christian communities which are not able to celebrate Mass every Sunday, but they are still called to gather together in prayer, to listen to the Word of God, and to nurture their desire for the Eucharist.
Alternatively, there are many secularized societies which have entirely lost the Christian sense of an “illuminated Sunday,” he said.
In this case we must help revive and recover the meaning of the day, he said, which should be celebrated with joy, with community, and with solidarity; as a day of rest “that restores the soul and the body.” CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY