Is Missing Mass a Mortal Sin?
****Straight Answers By Fr. William Saunders
***I was visiting relatives over Easter, and sadly they do not attend Mass. I went to Mass, and reminded them that missing Mass was a mortal sin. They said, "Oh, that was in the old days. Missing Mass is no longer a mortal sin." What do you say? Please give me some ammunition. — A reader in Manassas***
Rather than just approaching this question from the angle of "missing Mass is a sin," we should first call to mind the importance of the Mass. Each Sunday, we gather together as a Church with hearts filled with joy to worship Almighty God. We remember and profess our faith once again in the mystery of our salvation, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered, died, and rose for our salvation. The saving actions of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday coalesce in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The *Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy* of the Vatican Council II asserted, "For it is the liturgy through which, especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, >the work of our redemption is accomplished,' and it is through the liturgy, especially that the faithful are enabled to express in their lives and manifest to others the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true church" (#2).
Moreover, at Mass, each faithful Catholic is fed with abundant graces: First, we are nourished by the Word of God-- God’s eternal truth that has been revealed to us and recorded under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We then respond by professing our Holy Catholic Faith as presented in the Creed, saying not simply AI believe" as a singular person, but Awe believe" as part of the Church.
Second, if we are in a state of grace, then we have the opportunity to receive our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. We firmly believe that our Lord is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, and that we receive His body, blood, soul, and divinity in Holy Communion. Not only does the Holy Eucharist unite us intimately with the Lord, but also unites us in communion with our brothers and sisters throughout the universal Church. The Holy Eucharist is such a precious gift!
With this in mind, no one should simply think of attending Mass as fulfilling an obligation. To attend Mass is a privilege, and any faithful Catholic should want to attend Mass. Our perspective should not be, AI have got to do this"; rather, we should think, AI get to do this."
Nevertheless, because the Mass offers such precious gifts, provides the nourishment of great graces, and unites us as a Church, we do indeed have a sacred obligation to attend Mass. Remember that the Third Commandment stated, “Keep Holy the Sabbath.” For the Jewish people, the Old Testament Sabbath was on Saturday, marking the “dDay of rest” after creation. For Christians, we have always kept holy Sunday, the day of the resurrection. Just as creation unfolded on the first day of the week with God commanding, “Let there be light,” our Lord, the Light who came to shatter the darkness of sin and death, rose from the dead on that first day marking the new creation.