“Not going to church because of hypocrites is like not going to the gym because of out-of-shape people.”
A parish priest in Dublin, Ireland, grew tired of listening to the same worn excuses from people as to why they don’t attend church. He wrote the following and printed it in the Sunday bulletin:
Ten Reasons Why I Never Wash
• I was forced to wash as a child.
• People who wash are hypocrites. They think they are cleaner than everyone else.
• There are so many different kinds of soap, I could never decide which one is right.
• I used to wash, but it got boring so I stopped.
• I wash only on special occasions, like Easter and Christmas.
• None of my friends wash.
• I’m still young. When I’m older and have gotten a bit dirtier, I might start washing.
• I really don’t have time to wash.
• The bathroom is never warm enough in the winter or cool enough in the summer.
• People who make soap are only after your money.
This tongue-in-cheek essay sheds an interesting light on why people might stay home from church. There are other reasons as well: I work all week and need Sunday mornings to relax. A priest was rude to me so I never went back. I can worship at home or in the woods. I’m a good person and do not need religion.
The sad truth is that those of us who do attend church may contribute to the problem. Think about it. Do I take the time to introduce myself to newcomers? Did I offer a helping hand to the mother with three squirmy children? Do I act with charity toward those who do not attend church?
Fortunately, there are a great many reasons to go to church. Here are a few:
The God of eternity is waiting for me at every Mass. I need spiritual nourishment, especially when my faith is weak. Praying at home or in the woods is wonderful, but it does not take the place of hearing the word of God, receiving the Eucharist or human interaction. God instructs us to “not neglect the meeting together.” In other words, we are compelled to go to Mass.
In all honesty, often it’s this “Sunday obligation” that gets us out of bed Sunday mornings. We don’t want to get in trouble with God. We’re commanded to be at church, so we go.
That’s a start, but it misses a key point: It’s an unspeakable privilege to join God each Sunday morning. He invites us to be refreshed, taught, forgiven and renewed. It is not simply an obligation; it’s a joy.
Perhaps we fail to grasp this truth because going to church costs us little. Attitudes tend to be different when the stakes are high. Picture yourself in a nation where Christians are persecuted, or in a third-world country where the closest Mass is celebrated in a village 10 or 15 kilometers away. That’s 10 or 15 kilometers on rutted roads and possibly traveled on foot. And yet in many parts of the world, people make that trek Sunday after Sunday. Some communities make a day of the celebration, sharing a meal and enjoying fellowship as well as Mass. At the end of the day, people make the long trip home. Their time with God comes at a cost.
It brings to mind something a rabbi once told his Catholic friend. “If I believed what you believe about the Eucharist, I would crawl on my belly to receive it.”
Jesus in the Eucharist is the best reason to go to church. It’s all about Jesus.
Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer. She is the author of Do Bad Guys Wear Socks? Living the Gospel in Everyday Life.