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 | By Dr. Dan Osborn

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is like… a time machine?

Question: “I don’t feel like it, so why do I have to go to Mass?

Answer: At Mass, the source of our salvation (Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary) is made present to us; Mass also unites us with the liturgy in heaven, offering a foretaste of eternal life.

“Why do I have to go to Mass?” This is a question we might hear not only from bored teenagers, but also from Catholics who – through no fault of their own – got out of the habit of attending Mass during the COVID-19 pandemic.

One way to answer is to simply quote the third of the Ten Commandments that God gave us through Moses: “Keep holy the Lord’s Day.” But beyond our obligation to keep this divine commandment, why else should we participate at Mass on Holy Days and Sundays (or at Saturday vigil Masses)? Here are some common responses…

  1. To receive Jesus in Holy Communion. True, but we can also receive Holy Communion outside of Mass.
  2. To hear God’s Holy Word. True, but we can also read the Bible aloud in our living rooms.
  3. To have a sense of community with fellow Catholics. True, but we can also enjoy this aspect at a parish potluck, not just at Mass.
  4. To hear uplifting spiritual music. True, but we can also hear good Christian music in a YouTube video.
  5. To be with God. True, but God is everywhere.

So why exactly should we go to Mass? 

In a very real sense, every time we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass we are entering a time machine. The Catholic Church teaches that the once-and-for-all redemptive sacrifice of Christ on the cross is made present to us in a real but mystical way at every Mass. At Mass, it’s not that we go back in time to Calvary; rather, the sacrifice of Calvary is brought forward in time to us. (Remember: God is above time and he is all-powerful, so he can do this!) What an amazing grace it is that we can, in a real sense, draw near to the source waters of our salvation at every Mass – namely, Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice on Calvary!

But there is another “time machine” aspect to the Eucharistic liturgy. At Mass, we have the privilege of participating, even now, in the heavenly liturgy that awaits us after this life if we die in God’s friendship. “By the Eucharistic celebration we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all” (Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1326).

Thus, every Mass allows us to escape the confines of time and space so that, through the power of God, we may be truly present to both the source of our salvation from the past and to our future, heavenly destiny.