Why do we go to Mass? Essentially, we go to grow spiritually and worship as a faith community. At Mass, we profess what we believe and bear witness to Christ by openly celebrating our Catholic faith before the world. We go to Mass to share in the wonder of God’s love and be transformed by the Spirit of holiness. When that happens, we go forward to live our faith and share with others that there is something greater in life to come.
Our Mass has not changed much over the past 2000 years. In 155 AD, St Justin Martyr wrote a letter to Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius to explain and defend how the Early Christians worshiped. St. Justin wrote: “On the day we call the day of the sun [Sunday], all who dwell in the city or country gather in the same place. The memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read, as much as time permits. When the reader has finished, he who presides over those gathered admonishes and challenges them to imitate these beautiful things. Then we all rise together and offer prayers for ourselves…and for others, wherever they may be, so that we may be found righteous by our actions, and faithful to the commandments, so as to obtain eternal salvation. When the prayers are concluded we exchange the kiss. Then someone brings bread and a cup of water and wine mixed together to him who presides over the brethren. He takes them and offers praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and for a considerable time he gives thanks [in Greek: eucharistian] that we have been judged worthy of these gifts. When he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all present give voice to an acclamation by saying “Amen.” When he who presides has given thanks and the people have responded, those whom we call deacons give to those present the eucharisted bread, wine and water and take them to those who are absent.” Ten years after he wrote this, Marcus Aurelius had St. Justin condemned, scourged, & beheaded for not worshiping Roman gods. St Justin Martyr loved the Mass and gave his life for it.
In his book, Rediscovering Catholicism, Matthew Kelly writes Catholics have lost their sense of wonder about the Mass. He asks are we “so unaware of the mystery and the privilege [of the Mass] that we can hardly wait to get out of church?” He says if we truly believe Christ is present in the Eucharist, then the power unleashed within us through receiving the Eucharist is “unfathomable.” But we cannot experience this feeling if we simply go to Mass because it’s our Sunday “obligation” or someone told us to. The only way to grow spiritually at Mass and enjoy the camaraderie of our faith community is to rediscover the same wonder those First Christians experienced celebrating Jesus’ presence among them when He said, ‘do this in memory of me’.