Seeking Catholic interpretation of Col. 2:16


I understand Catholic doctrine teaches it is a mortal sin to miss a weekly Mass without good cause. How does that work in light of Col. 2:16 that reads, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holyday, or of the new moon or of the sabbath days” (KJV) and the verses that follow?

Isn’t Paul saying we died with Christ and are no longer subject to such ordinances and “touch not, taste not” type rules?

Thank you.



Yes - but you see - you are leaving out the “good reason” clause…

As I understand it, the Mosaic law of that time was strictly enforced with very little room for variation.
The Church ordinances, falling as they do under the Law of Love and Christ’s authority in His Church, ALWAYS allow for abnormal situations.

I’m sure others will give better answers…but that is how I understand the gist of it.



Hebrews 10:25

King James Version (KJV)

25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.


From , Colossians 2 verse 16:Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 16. *Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat or in drink. *That is, for not abstaining from meats, called unclean, for drinking out of a cup without a cover, (see Numbers xix.) or for not keeping the Jewish festivals. For these were but shadows, types and figures of future things to be fulfilled in the new law of Christ: but the body is of Christ, (ver. 17.) i.e. was the body, the truth, the substance signified by these shadows and types. (Witham) — He means with regard to the Jewish observations of the distinction of clean and unclean meats; and of their festivals, new moons, and sabbaths; as being no longer obligatory. (Challoner) — Modern dogmatizers wilfully or ignorantly misapply this text of the apostle, to disprove the fasts and festivals observed in the Catholic Church; but it is evident, as St. Augustine observes, that the apostle is here condemning the legal distinction of clean and unclean meats, and the feasts of the new moon, to which false brethren wanted to subject the Colossians. (St. Augustine, ep. 59. ad Paulin. in solut. quæs. 7.)


I’ll take a stab at this. Keep in mind this is my understanding, not necessarily the official Catholic stance if we have one.

Here is the NAB version which I believe is more accurate then KJV.

“Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath.”

the cliff notes in my bible read as follows:
Festival or new moon or Sabbath: yearly, monthly, weekly observances determined by religious powers associated with a calendar set by heavenly bodies, sun, moon, and stars.

This tells me that the activities in question (festival, new moon, or Sabbeth) are of Pagan origin, or jewish but not Christian. Paul is saying if you participate let no one (in the church) pass judgement on you. In other words no one in the church should say “Did you see John go to the new moon harvest festival? That’s pagan he shouldn’t be doing that. And he ate that meat sacrficed to an idol, and drank the wine offered to it too.”

This in no way can be seen as giving a pass on going to Mass which is our christian obligation. Going to pagan festivals is one thing, going to worship Jesus is another.

Since the culture the early Christians lived in was Pagan there would have been lots of festivals and what not. Paul is saying if you go ok if not ok. But no one should judge you if you do.


It is important to read a scripture in context, not take an isolated sentence or verse out and attempt to interpret it out of the context of both the book to which it belongs, and the wider scripture.

Reading the whole of Col 2, we see that St. Paul (and considering his braoder themes) is talking about is first and foremost about casting asside the expectations of the Jewish or pagan cultures and religions.
In the Jewish faith there were strict rules on the observance of the Sabbath, the New Moon, and various other feasts. There was very strict Kosher laws governing all aspects of behaviours and ritual cleanliness
In Pagan cultures there were often similar rules.

St. Paul tells us in almost every one of his letters, that it is not the observance of the “Works of the Law” (or just “Works”)… i.e. following the rules of ritual cleanliness, and religious observance, which grants us favour with God, but it is a true conversion of Heart. Belief in him, followed by Faith in Him, followed by a total following of His Law, and rejection of the World. -We must live in the world, but not of it.

However does this mean that there is no law for Christians? Absoloutely not!!!
Jesus tells us that he will do away with the Law written on Stone and replace it with his followers observing the Living Law written on our Hearts. The church calls this "Natural Law.
While the Law of Moses is fullfilled in Jesus, Natural Law, as a guide to human morality is very accurately summed up in the 10 commandments (but this is not it’s source… just a usefull summary)
it is summarised more succinctly in Jesus 2 commandments:

  1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart all your soul and all your mind.
  2. Love your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus also told us: “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for Man”

The 3rd Commandment is “Keep Holy the Sabbath Day”… Replaced with “The Lord’s Day”

Man needs Rest. Man needs to Worship God. Man needs to be part of the Church - the Body of Christ.

To deliberately reject the Common worship of God, through Christ, on the Lords day, is to reject His Church. It is to cut oneself off from the Vine: When a branch is cut off from the vine it will wither and die.

Now… on top of this: it is not the judgment of other people we should be concerened with regarding how we worship God… It is how our worship or lack there of will affect our relationship with Christ, and our ability to accept his free gift of Grace…
His Grace requires our co-operation - that is what Faith is. It is far more than just an intellectual “Belief”. it is putting our trust in Him, and doing what He says.

He said that the Apostles would found His church. He said they had the power to Bind and Loose. He said we must be part of His Church. He said “Do this in my memory”. He said: “Whoever does not eat my flesh and drink my blood will have no life within him.”

If due to some pressure I fail to make it to mass on any given Sunday, through some confluence of avoidable circumstances but without a deliberate decision to skip it, then I am doing to my relationship with Christ what a Woman does to her fianceé when she calls up to apologise and cancel a date. - It’s not going to be the end of the world if its only occasional… but she should make sure to apologise.
On the other hand, if she refuses to meet him or very frequently stands him up then she is clearly not attempting to foster the relationship, and is very likely to not continue in a state of loving friendship. In some cases such behaviour will rapidly lead to or directly end the relationship.

A “Mortal Sin” is a sin which is sufficient on it’s own to sever our relationship with Jesus, and make us unwilling or unable to accept His Love and Forgivness should we meet him face to Face.

What the church teaches is that this act (deliberately missing liturgical worship on Sundays and Holy Days) is “Grave Matter”.

For something to be a “Mortal Sin”. it must meet 3 criteria:

  1. it must constitute “Grave Matter”
  2. It must be freely consented to (it’s not a mortal sin if you’re forced, or in some other way are not free to make your own decision)
  3. you must know that the matter is Grave.

To reject the teaching of the importance of rest and worship on The Lords Day is to reject the teaching of Holy Scripture and the Church. this is very Grave matter.

To accept this teaching, but to refuse to attend Mass on sundays without just cause is also grave matter, carried out in full knowledge of the churches teaching.

To do so when you have a clear free choice is likely to constitute a Mortal Sin, God truly knows what your current state of grace is.


Also in the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve (1st century):

every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.

But let no one who is at odds with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned.

For this is that which was spoken by the Lord: “In every place and time offer to me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is wonderful among the nations.”


The point of the letter to the Colossians was that Jews were saying you had to obey Jewish dietary law, observe Jewish festival days, etc., in order to be saved. Paul was stating that this was not so.

Paul is not stating that those in the city of Colossea were no longer subject to any rules whatsoever, but that they were not subject to the rules of the old covenant.



Hi Brent great question!

There are two issues here, one about fasting and abstinence, and one about missing Mass on Sunday. The answer to both I believe is in the very next verse of the passage you quoted.

"These things were but shadows of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ

What Paul is talking about is the rituals and regulations of the Old Covenant. (See Hebrews 10:1 for more) The Colossians were being tempted to go back to those, as if they had any power of themselves to save. Paul is saying that this is foolish, because those things are merely signs that foreshadowed Christ. They shouldn’t let people judge them for not following the Old Covenant laws, because the old covenant had passed away. It was not binding any longer. Catholics whole heartedly believe that.

However, Paul isn’t saying, as you said, there are no longer any laws whatsoever that bind Christians, and this is crucial. We are freed from Old Covenant regulations, of course. But we are not freed, for example from the obligation to worship God. Christ himself told us this. In Matthew 19:17 the rich young man comes to Jesus to ask what he must do to inherit eternal life. What does Jesus reply?

If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments

Following the Ten Commandments is not optional for Christians. Jesus orders us to. And, one of those commandments is to worship God. Further, Christ gives us another command, to celebrate the Eucharist. He tells the disciples to “do this in memory of him” and to eat his body and drink his blood. If we truly love Jesus, we will, we must, keep his commandments. (Jn 14:15, 23-24)

That’s why the Church teaches it’s a grave matter to purposefully miss Mass on Sunday for no sufficient reason. By doing that, we are disobeying Christ! We are disregarding him, and putting ourselves and our own likes or dislikes above him, who is God and deserves our entire undivided love. That is why it’s a mortal sin, for the one being sinned against is Jesus! Who doesn’t need our worship, but wants us to experience his love in the most Holy Eucharist. And by purposefully missing that, we are in a way spurning him.

By teaching us the gravity of the situation, the Church is standing up for her bridegroom. Telling us not to ignore the great blessings he wants to give us. And to give him the just worship he deserves.




As far as fasting and abstinence goes, there are two things to consider. First, the Church doesn’t enjoin fasting on us because she thinks that some foods are ritually unclean, or that avoiding those foods in and of itself has the power to save us, as the Jewish people back in Christ’s time did. Rather, it’s used as a form of penance, of turning our hearts back to God. And it doesn’t do any good if its not done with the proper disposition, as Jesus himself taught in Matthew 6:

And when you fast do not look dismal like the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who sees in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you (Mt 6:16-18)

Jesus not only tells us how to fast, but that it will be rewarded. He even prophesies that his followers will fast when he leaves in Matt 9:15. So fasting is not contrary to Christianity.

Second and I believe most importantly, Our Lord gave the apostles the authority to bind and loose in Matthew 16:18 and 18:18. That would include doctrine as well as disciplines. Which is exactly what we see them doing in Acts 15. Peter made the doctrinal declaration that we are saved through the grace of Christ, and not the works of the law. But then when the council sends out its decree, they say this.

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, from meat that is strangled, and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these things you will do well. (Acts 15:28-29)

That seems to contradict what they said just 15 verses earlier, and what Paul says in Colossians 2. We’re not supposed to pay heed to admonitions of “don’t touch” or “don’t eat” yet here the apostles are doing exactly that! And Paul himself was at the council and was the one who delivered this letter.

It seems unlikely that Paul would be contradicting in Colossians 2 a teaching he helped formulate himself. But if we understand him to be referring to the Old covenant laws, then there is no contradiction. He’s not condemning works or rules indiscriminately, but rather those done apart from Christ, which the Church still teaches have no power to save us. But if they’re done through Him, with Him and in Him, and only Him, then they have substance, then they are actually worth something to God.

Sorry that was so much! :slight_smile: Hope that helped you understand the Catholic position a little better. Let me know if something didn’t make sense or needs more explaining.



Committed Catholic.
Married Man.
Dad to 2 beautiful miracles.
Discerning a possible call to the Diaconate.
Sometimes I post from my phone. It’s hard to spell-check those entries - sorry.
Please pray for me.

You want us to pray that you get spell check on your cell phone or that you learn to spell better? :shrug::slight_smile:


One of the perks of being an apostle was that you were authorized by Jesus Christ to create any morally-binding rules for the Church that you thought were pastorally necessary. (Matthew 16:19; 18:18). The apostles passed this rule-making power on to the elders (bishops) of the Church. For example, in Acts 15, the apostles and elders of the church directed the Gentile Christians in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia to “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled,” even though Jesus himself had previously “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19) The current morally-binding rule obliging Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation is simply another example of that apostolic rule-making power being exercised by the bishops of the Catholic Church.


While I see this as essentially correct…I think that where you say "perk - and “rule making power”…Jesus and the Apostles (and their successors) would say “responsibility”.

For not only did Jesus give such authority (power), He also warned of the great responsibility that goes along with said authority…
Luke 12:48 -
…From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

Mt 18:6 -
"If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Mt 20:26-27 -
…whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave;

Sorry to go off topic like this…guess it’s a bit of a “thing” with me that we should all recognize the responsibility before God that is carried by our bishops rather than the (perceived) power in their hands to “make rules”.

Now - back to topic.



Thank you all for your replies. I appreciate it.

closed #15

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