As a Catholic what am I supposed to think or say when family members and friends tell me that they don’t go to Mass because they just don’t get anything out of it?
Father Bober: Any response must begin with clearly establishing the purpose of attending Mass. The Eucharist is rooted in the Passover experience of the people of the Old Testament. Enslaved, they prayed to God to save them. God intervened in their lives and enabled them to confront Pharaoh. As they prepared for the promised release, they were told to eat the Passover meal. As they did so they were most aware of God’s presence and intent to act on their behalf. They worshiped God in prayer and gave thanks.
Every spring, the people of Israel celebrated the Passover anew as they worshiped and gave thanks to God. One spring, Jesus gathered His disciples and did as had been done for centuries—He celebrated the Passover. At that Passover, Jesus spoke of a new covenant in His blood and told His disciples to do as He had done in remembrance of Him.
Reflecting the Passover experience, each Mass is essentially an act of worship and giving thanks. We attend Mass not to get, but to give. Without the focus of worship and thanksgiving, the purpose of Mass can become obscured, and some people can then perceive it as a form of entertainment. If they do not like the “performance” they seek other venues. What a difference it makes when we see Mass as worship and thanksgiving.
This is not to say, however, that we walk away empty handed. At Mass, the Word of God is proclaimed, and we are challenged to apply it in our lives. At Mass, we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord as Eucharistic food for the journey. At Mass, we encounter a community of the faithful in whom Christ dwells. What more could we want?
While attending Mass, we cannot simply be passive observers. The vision of the Church is that we are active participants. One occasionally observes those who arrive late for Mass, read the bulletin as they watch everyone who enters, daydream, and leave before or right after Communion. On the way home, they may even ask why they don’t get more out of Mass. What did they really put into it?
A full appreciation of Mass is also related to how we allow the Eucharist to relate to our daily lives. If Sunday (or even daily) Eucharist is the only time I encounter God, then it tends to become isolated and unrelated. If my daily life involves frequent communication with God, the Sunday celebration becomes the means of focusing that personal and intimate relationship into a celebration with others. It is at Mass that I relate my personal experience of God with that shared by others. We become for each other a source of strength and support.
Perhaps the most we can say to those who don’t go to Mass is how much the Mass means to us and how much we get out of it. Speaking about the Eucharist and living it can do an enormous amount of good.