It’s Sunday morning. You’re catching some z’s, peacefully slumbering…and then BUZZ!!!! There goes the alarm clock. Time to get up for Mass. Now, here comes the hard decision: do you hit the snooze button continuously until it’s impossible for you to get ready for Mass in time (whoops, right?), or do you get out of bed and get ready to celebrate Mass with the others in your parish?
I hope you guys all know the answer you ought to have chosen in that scenario, but I understand the feeling. It’s not always great to hear my alarm go off at 6:45 in the morning so that I have enough time to get ready for 8:00am Mass…especially if I made the decision to stay up late the night before. But you know what? We need to wipe the sleep out of our eyes, get up, and prepare ourselves for Mass anyway.
Why? What’s the big idea?
Why should we get out of bed early on Sunday just to sit at Mass for an hour? …not to mention the suffering we go through during the homily! (If any priests are reading this…I’m just kidding :D). Well…let’s just number this list.
1) Community. The Mass is a chance for us to come together with our Catholic brothers and sisters to celebrate our faith and what God has done for us.
2) Commandment. God commanded us to “keep holy the sabbath day”. Attending Mass on Sunday fulfills this call for Catholics and celebrates the memory of Easter Sunday and the Resurrection of Christ.
3) Obligation. Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and feast days when able (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2180-2183).
4) The Eucharist. At the Mass, we receive Our Lord under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine. (I could have just listed this reason…that’s pretty much sufficient.)
5) The Homily. Don’t laugh. I’m being serious now (for the moment). The homily is meant to relate the Scripture readings to your life and help you to apply God’s Word to your life. So listen up. No sleeping.
6) The Word of God. During Mass, we hear the Word of God proclaimed to us and we see where our lives match up or don’t match up with what God wants from us.
7) Gratitude. It’s not all about us, people! Look at all that God has done for us throughout history. Is one hour of our time really too much to ask after all of the love He has freely shown?
Attending Mass is absolutely necessary if you’re serious about living your faith. The Mass is at the center of our lives as Catholics and it is impossible to grow spiritually without regularly going to Mass and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. The Mass is not a burden that binds us! It is a celebration that liberates us, unites us to our brothers and sisters, and lifts our whole being up to God.
So…is something missing from your Sunday?
We know that sin, by its very nature, separates us from God (the little illustration above is pretty nice for this point). Why? Because sin is always a rejection of God and His Will for our lives. However, we’ve also heard in our religious education classes that there are TWO types of sin: mortal sin and venial sin. So what’s the difference? Let’s take a look.
Before we roll right along, let’s answer a critical question: Where in the world is the concept of two types of sin found in Scripture? Open up your Bibles, guys! We’re gonna take a look at 1 John 5:16-17. For those who don’t have a copy of the Scriptures readily at hand, here’s the text:
“If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.”
According to Scripture, then, there is both deadly (mortal) sin and non-deadly (venial) sin.
A mortal sin is the most serious type of sin. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1857), a sin is mortal if and only if it meets the following conditions:
1) The object of the sin is grave matter.
2) The sin is committed with full knowledge that the act is sinful.
3) The sin is committed with the deliberate consent of the person.
If any of these three conditions is absent, the sin is a venial sin.
Now, though, let’s go through those three conditions.
1. The object of the sin is grave matter.
Just what is “grave matter”?. The Ten Commandments specify grave matter, but even the Commandments can be ranked from greater to lesser evil. For example, stealing something is less serious than committing adultery. The person on the receiving end also matters. If you punch your parents, that’s worse than punching a complete stranger (CCC#1858).
2. The sin is committed with full knowledge that the act is sinful.
For a sin to be mortal, the person committing the sin must be fully aware of the fact that what they are doing is wrong. If the person is ignorant of the sinful nature of the act, the sin is a venial sin and is less serious.
3. The sin is committed with the deliberate consent of the person.
Not only does the person know that the act is sinful, he/she must also commit the sin deliberately.
So, the sin you are about to commit is serious, you fully know that it is serious, and then you deliberately commit the sin anyway. That’s mortal sin.
A venial sin, as I’ve said, is any sin which does not have all of the three above conditions that constitute a mortal sin. Because of this, the sin does not carry with it the same gravity as a mortal sin. That being said, however, don’t go thinking venial sins are okay to commit. Remember that any sin, no matter how serious it is, is an offense against God and it is our sins which pull us away from God and prevent us from uniting ourselves to Him.
What to Do?
Well, we all sin; that’s part of being human. We fall sometimes. So what should we do when we fall into sin?
When we realize that we have sinned against God, we should always ask for His forgiveness and sincerely repent of the wrong that we have done. For venial sins, it is enough to repent and receive the Eucharist, which absolves a person of any stain of venial sin. Mortal sins, however, are another matter. Because of the seriousness of a mortal sin, the act kills the life of God’s grace in the soul and “necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation” (CCC #1856). Confession is the only ordinary means the Church knows of by which God forgives mortal sins after baptism.
I hope that helps everybody. If you’ve got a question, leave a comment!