Last night at "Adam Wants to be Catholic Class" otherwise known an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiative for Adults) we had a very interesting discussion on Reconciliation. This led to a discussion on Catholic teachings about sin (both mortal and venial). Your venial, everyday lesser sins, are forgiven when you go to Mass on Sunday. Mortal sins must be forgiven through confession. Also, if you have committed a Mortal sin, you technically aren't supposed to take communion until you have confessed your sin to a priest. We got into the topic of Mortal sins and learned that technically missing Mass (for no good reason, not hospitalization or work or something where you really couldn't go all weekend) is a Mortal sin. In that case anyone who misses Mass one weekend should go to confession! Obviously that doesn't happen. The line for the confessional would be out the door. And I don't believe we really want to make it that scary for people.
We are trying to welcome Catholics home* and not force them to go to confession first. However, it does bring up a good point: Why aren't people attending Mass anymore? And why don't they think it is important? We got on the topic of this and spent quite a bit of time discussing it. It seems that so many people so easily say "I am too busy", "I have a relationship with God, I don't need to go to church for Him to know", "It is my only morning to sleep." I am not going to say that I am perfect, but in recent years, I have really made a concerted effort to attend Mass every weekend. Last weekend we even went Saturday night (not our regular Mass) so we could sleep in on Sunday morning because we were going downtown for the Rite of Election (not a Mass with communion so it doesn't count). Not that I don't love me some sleep! Trust me! I LOVE sleep! However, what is going to make more of a difference in my life? Sleeping in an extra hour one Sunday? Or having a relationship with God?
Throughout our discussion last night, we talked about these reasons people give for not going to church and how to answer those reasons with the importance of attending. Not because "The Catholic church says". Because you get into these rules and then the response is "I don't need to go to church just because they tell me it is a sin not to go". Which I agree with. I don't go to church because I am supposed to. I go because I receive nourishment and fulfilment out of it. I go because the people there are part of my family and I can't imagine not gathering with them to celebrate every Sunday. I go because it gives me something I can't get anywhere else.
But why do we have to go to church to have a relationship with God? It is a typically Protestant idea that "my relationship is between me and God" (not that it is bad, just where that idea stems from). Catholics believe that the community is just as important. It is not just me and God. It is our Church, our community together glorifying God and His Son every week. Someone last night likened it to coals: When you are cooking, all the coals together on the grill stay warm together and feed each other to remain strong enough to cook the meal. One coal on its own will not cook a meal and does not have the strength to endure. That makes a lot of sense to me. Being at Mass with all the other people who believe what I believe and celebrate what I celebrate fills the soul. Together all those people giving Glory to God is uplifting and you know we are there for our mutual celebration of Him. Another person last night put it even more simply, "If you want Him to hang out with you, you need to make time to be with Him". And it is really true. We can say that we talk to God and we pray and we have an individual relationship, but don't you think it is more meaningful when you really take time out of your week for Him rather than just before meals and before bed? We spend time focusing on our relationships with our friends, our parents, our significant others, our kids, our co-workers, why don't we spend more time focusing on our relationship with God?
I have done much reflecting since last night and although I have been making an effort to attend Mass every weekend, it is even more important to me now. I am also making an effort to pray before meals. It is something my family does, but so easily didn't happen when I moved out on my own. I want God to know that he isn't just another task I'm shoving in between work, grad school, committees, and wedding planing. He is a central part of my life and I need to show that through my actions.
*You may have seen the ads on TV and on the radio in December and January for Catholics Come Home. The Church has made an effort to welcome people back who may have been gone for a long time or just a short while. It has been neat to hear about those coming back to the church and being welcomed into the community that I love.