Question: I need help with my youth ministry apologetics. The middle- and high-school students often ask me some version of the following question: “Why do I have to go to Mass every Sunday?”
MARC CARDARONELLA RESPONDS…
The obvious answer is it’s a Precept of the Church and fulfills the Third Commandment. Deliberately failing in this obligation is a grave sin. However, arguments from authority don’t always carry much weight with Millennials and their younger, Generation Z, successors. You must get at the “why” and show how it relates to them.
Sunday worship revolves around the virtue of justice. Justice is giving someone what you rightfully owe them. Because God created us and gave us everything we have, we owe him homage and service expressed as worship … public, visible worship, as well as private, interior devotion.
To truly understand this, your students need to “trip over the truth.” You do this by asking
questions related to what they know. Start with questions like, “Your parents love you right? How do you know?” Possible answers might include: They tell me they love me, they encourage me, show affection, take care of me, do things for me, spend time with me. Lead them to these answers.
Then ask, “How do you love them back?” They may answer: Tell them I love them, thank
them, show affection back, obey them, clean my room when they ask.
Develop this line of thought: “What if, after everything they did for you, your response was to refuse to love them back? Do you think that would hurt them?” Part of being in a relationship is thinking about the other person and doing things that help people stay together.
Now, tease out the conversation a step farther.
“What has God done for us?” They might answer: He created the universe, gave us life, died to save us, shared his love with us, gives us comfort and help every day. “Don’t you think he wants us to love him back? Don’t you think we owe him something after all he’s done for us?” The heart of the answers should be: We show God love by thanking him, spending time with him, and receiving his love. All this is achieved by attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist with gratitude. Everyone worships something. If it’s not God, it’s things like money, beauty, or status. Whatever resides at the center of your life and influences all your decisions becomes your idol. When it’s not God, life doesn’t go right. We’re made for the divine, and giving yourself to anything less leaves you empty. To accept his love and seek his will is what God wants more than anything else.
When you physically attend Mass, it marks an intention to place God at the center. So, attending Mass every Sunday not only shows God your love, it’s good for you, as well. It sets you on the track for a fulfilled and happy life.
Marc Cardaronella, MA, is director of the Office of Discipleship and Faith Formation in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. He is author of Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith and Making It Stick and blogs at MarcCardaronella.com.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, November/December 2018
PHOTO: GEORGE MARTELL/BAYARD