Updated: Aug 22
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
Is just physical attendance and participation enough to fulfill the third commandment?
Catholics know that we are supposed to attend Mass on all holy days of obligation. Some Catholics consider attendance, a quiet demeanor, and observable participation to be sufficient. Rather like watching a play. But is that enough? Perhaps that depends on what the Mass really is.
In order to understand all that is required for full “participation in the Mass,” Christians must understand our baptismal identity as the two are closely intertwined. Baptism is the spiritual adoption into God’s family, an irrevocable covenant which makes us spiritually assimilated to Christ to the point where we belong to him (CCC 537, 2171, 1269). While all people are called to know, love and serve God, by virtue of baptism and belonging to God’s family, Christians are called to purify our hearts and seek the love of God before everything else (CCC 1721, 1723). Baptism gives us access to the liturgy which is “participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit” and grounds us in God’s great love for us (CCC 1073). Mass is not something that we just attend. It is a family festival, a “meeting of God’s children with their Father, in Christ and the Holy Spirit” which means dialogue between God and his family (CCC 1153). Participation in Mass is the ultimate prayer to God and a “...foretaste of heavenly liturgy” (CCC 1090).
As a remedy and to ensure we are uniting ourselves properly to Christ in the Mass, the Catechism recommends the following: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication (CCC 2099). If we reflect on these, ask the Holy Spirit for help, and strive to behave in a manner worthy of children who love their Father and their family, we are sure to be more pleasing God and receive the graces we need. Our greatest spiritual progress is intimate union with Christ and we are to give him everything: heart, mind, soul, and body (CCC 2014). Whatever we give to Christ with good intentions, love of God, and a pure heart, he will cleanse and sanctify. When we observe the third commandment properly, when we love God with all our heart, soul, and our mind, we keep the Sabbath holy.
To learn more about Sunday Mass and what Catholics believe about Holy Days of Obligation, click here.