My final reason for this series of “Why go to Mass?” is more of a summarizing statement more than merely a single reason.
It is tempting to over-individualize faith, to make it just about me, what I like, and my personal relationship with Jesus. We sometimes approach religion and faith with a consumer mentality: I come and see what I like, and if I don’t like it, I move on.
While faith certainly includes an aspect that is immensely personal, it’s also about being a part of something greater than us! Not just an idea, but also a movement, a community of fellow believers, a Church! It’s not something that I shape to my own tastes and likes, but rather something that changes me…something that conforms and converts me to something bigger and teaches me to love more. My faith brings me face-to-face with the reality that I must grow in love of others, which I cannot do if I stay in my isolated bubble.
For me, to really live as Jesus calls me to, I need others around me, not only to help me grow in holiness by their encouragement, example, and prayers, but also to help me discover to love another by learning to love them (including those who I don’t like very much!)
And I am called to be that and do that for others!
While it may seem far easier at times to just do this on my own, and not have to deal with people’s shortcomings, Judgements, pettiness, failure to love, bad examples, etc. …the reality is that in the end my own spiritual life greatly suffers without others. It’s far too easy for us to mold our faith-life into something comfortable and ultimately self-centered that doesn’t help us or call us to grow in love or live into the challenge of Christ’s call.
And Jesus never intended us to do this alone! There is a reason Jesus called twelve disciples! There is a reason even those disciples were surrounded by a community of people journeying with them. There is a reason that the earliest Christians sought to live in intentional community! There is a reason the Church has emphasized the Mystical Body of Christ and the Communion of Saints.
All of us, in a way, are bound up together in Christ. Just as the body needs all the parts, Saint Paul says, so we need each other to keep moving forward, to walk together to pull and drag each other long with our prayers and support, and to hold each other up when we stumble!
And not only the community of Church on earth, but the entire Mystical Body of Christ, those who have died in Christ. We pray for the souls in Purgatory as they go through the process of purification. They then pray for us when they finally become saints in heaven!
Life is not about you!
Faith is not a solo hike!
Faith is not just a “me and Jesus” thing but a “we and Jesus” thing!
You were never meant to do this alone!
What I hope to drive home in this bulletin column series is that when we don’t go to church and share in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week, both the world and the Church are lesser for it!
You are needed and loved!