“I don’t think God would send someone who loves Him and follows Him to Hell.”

A conversation about exorcisms somehow veered into a free-for-all rapid fire of questions.  As I’ve said before, though, if my students ask questions about the faith and they are interested, I have a difficult time telling them no.

“I don’t believe the Church teaches that,” I told the student.

“But if I don’t go to church on Sunday, the Church says that is a mortal sin.  I don’t believe that if I love God and He loves me that He would send me to Hell for missing one Mass on Sunday.”

Understandably, this is a question I hear quite often.  My students find it difficult to accept that missing Mass is a grave sin.  They aren’t skipping it maliciously, I believe, and so I get where they are coming from with their confusion.  Usually, it is out of laziness or boredom or busyness.

So I did what I generally do–I tried my best to explain why the Church teaches what she does.

“I think if we understood what the Mass was, then we wouldn’t ask this question.  God is asking us to go to Mass to encounter Him and receive Him.  He is offering His very self to us out of love.  And if we love Him, I don’t think we would say that we aren’t able to come for one hour once a week.  The bare minimum in having a relationship with the Lord is this one hour.  We couldn’t say no to encountering the Lord and letting Him live in us if we truly loved Him.”

The answer seemed to touch a chord and we moved on to other questions.

Students are prone to question why we have to go to Mass and adults are more prone to critique the Mass itself.  Reading the comment section on any Facebook post or Catholic news article that relates to the liturgy is generally disheartening.  I’m not consoled by the people who bash Vatican II or praise Latin Masses.  While I understand fighting for goodness, truth, and beauty, I do not believe Jesus wanted the direction the priest faces to cause a civil war within the Church.  Or to hurl insults at people over the chosen music for a liturgy.  How can the place of Communion also be such a divisive topic?

Personal preferences aside, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass needs to be a place where people encounter the living God.  As our highest prayer, the Mass is the central point of our lives, the constant around which our hectic week invariably spins.  It ought to be otherworldly and yet draw us into deeper union with God and neighbor.  A taste of Heaven, it should be strength for the journey here on earth.

I think if we truly understood the Mass, then we wouldn’t drag our feet to the feast or hurl insults across the aisle.  A place of true union, the Mass is meant to unite us to God and our neighbor.  If we find that is not the case, then perhaps we should re-evaluate our motives and seek to purify our intentions.

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