Why Are Catholics Required to Attend Mass?
The people of ancient Judah were conquered by the powerful Babylonian Empire, and nearly all of them were exiled from their land. The city of Jerusalem and the great temple within its gates were ruined. No longer able to worship there as their ancestors had done, the Jews were forced to live in a faraway pagan culture that knew nothing of their God.
Only many years later were the surviving exiles and their children allowed to return home at last. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah report what happened upon their arrival in Judah.
Not surprisingly, those who were serious about their faith made it their priority to rebuild the temple so they could worship there again. They wept and shouted with joy at its restoration. Having been deprived so long of the freedom to worship God as he had instructed them, they had learned to treasure their sacred assemblies in the house of the Lord (see Ezr 3:11-13).
These ancient events illustrate why the Catholic Church requires attendance at Mass on Sundays and certain annual holy days. Worship is a primary duty owed to God by his creatures, who receive from him not only their very existence, but every other good gift as well. Worship is also a privilege, a precious opportunity to encounter the great King of the universe who loves his people beyond all telling.
The ancient Jews who recognized this awesome duty and privilege made every effort to come to the temple to offer their sacrifices of grain and animals. How much more, then, should Catholics be eager to attend Mass, where the glorious sacrifice of the Lamb of God himself is offered on the altar (see Heb 9:13-14)!
In the time of Moses, God had commanded his people "to keep holy the [weekly] sabbath day" by setting it apart for worship and rest (see Ex 20:8-11 The Church now applies what we might call that "Sabbath principle" to Sundays and holy days of obligation, when Mass attendance is an obligation. Just as under the Old Covenant God required proper observance of the Sabbath, under the New Covenant the Church requires proper observance of Sunday, "the Lord's day" (Rv 1:10), the day of Resurrection. ln fact, among the formal "precepts" (rules) of the Church, this one is the very first.