The Catechism commands us to go to Mass every Sunday and on every other religious holiday.
But what if we miss Mass every now and then? Are we committing a grave sin?
Thank you in advance for your clarification about this and pray for me.
- The Catechism of the Catholic Church, after reiterating numerous times the obligation to participate in the Mass on Sundays and other holy days of obligation, says that “the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor (CCC 2181) and that “those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.” (Ib.).
- In his letter Dies Domini about the Sunday (May 31 1998), John Paul II reminds us, regarding the gravity of the obligation, that in the Old Testament the sanctification of the Sabbath is established “within the Decalogue, the “ten words” which represent the very pillars of the moral life inscribed on the human heart” (DD 13).
- In the Old Testament, the punishment for the violation of the Sabbath was death (Ex 31:14; 35:2).
The book of Numbers relates the harsh penalty imposed on a person who had violated the Sabbath:
“While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was discovered gathering wood on the sabbath day. Those who caught him at it brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole community. But they put him in custody, for there was no clear decision as to what should be done with him. Then the Lord said to Moses: This man shall be put to death; let the whole community stone him outside the camp. So the whole community led him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Nm 15:32-36).
- In the New Testament, and more precisely in Hebrews, we find the invitation not to “stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some […] and this all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:25).
- St. Ignatius of Antioch, who died in 107 and was a disciple of Saint John the Apostle and evangelist, says “Whoever doesn’t participate in the assembly is possessed by pride and has already judged himself”, meaning condemned himself.
- The Synod of Elvira in 300 also establishes some punishments for those who don’t sanctify the holiday: “If anyone who lives in the city does not attend church services for three Sundays, let that person be expelled for a brief time in order to make the reproach public” (can. 21).
The Council of Sardica as well: “You remember that in former times our fathers decreed that if a layman were staying in a city and should not come to divine worship for three [successive] Sundays [that is], for three [full] weeks, he should be expelled from communion.” (can. 11).
- Severity of the punishment imposed aside, this is to say that, by not sanctifying the holiday, one deprives himself of many blessings.
He deprives himself of that blessing that God promised at the dawn of creation with these words: “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy” (Gen 2:3).
The blessing of God is always efficacious and it’s an effusion and multiplication of gifts.
Depriving oneself of this blessing, aside from being an authentic impoverishment, is the same as leaving oneself exposed to the incursions of our common enemy who – when it comes – “comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy” (Jn 10:10).
- For a Christian, sanctifying the holidays is a necessity of love.
He can’t do without the Lord, His sacrifice, His word, His presence and His benediction.
We understand then why St. Ignatius says that whoever doesn’t sanctify the holiday has already judged himself, meaning he has made it manifest that he doesn’t care much about the Lord.
The testimony of the 49 martyrs of Abitinae, sentenced to death in 304, in proconsular Africa, was very different. They replied to their accusers: “It is without fear that we have celebrated the Lord’s supper, because it can’t be omitted; it is our law”; “We cannot live without Sunday”.
One of the martyrs confessed: “Yes, I have gone to the assembly and I celebrated the supper of the Lord with my brothers, because I am a Christian” (Acta SS. Saturnini, Dativi et aliorum Plurimorum martyrum in Africa, 7, 9, 10).
I thank you for the opportunity to reiterate these points of the Magisterium of the Church that are of vital importance for our Christian life and for our eternal welfare as well.
I wish you well, I recommend you to the Lord and bless you.