What is this whole Church thing about? Why should we even go to Mass or go to a church service? I started pondering these questions nearly two years before becoming Catholic. I had just finished a discipleship school at a somewhat charismatic non-denominational church where I had pretty much lived at the church that entire time. I enjoyed the school, yet I was greatly troubled with these big questions about church after I had left. As I spent time with God out in nature at a pond on Sundays instead of going to a church, I was wrestling with these questions. I thought to myself: If church is about some guy’s sermon, then I can podcast that and I don’t need to go. If church is about the worship music, I can listen to that on my iPod and I don’t need to go. If church is about Christian community, I have that with my friends and I don’t need to go to church.
At most church services I had attended, the climax of the service was usually the pastor’s sermon. The service seemed to be centered more on the pastor than on Jesus, even if the sermon was about Jesus. As you can imagine, I became quite disillusioned with this kind of approach to church.
As I was pondering the question (why go to church?) at the pond, I suddenly thought of communion or the Eucharist. It was a passing thought that I didn’t understand, yet it jolted me enough to catch my attention and stick with me. Though I had been a Christian for some time, I didn’t know anything about the Sacraments, and I certainly didn’t view communion as actually partaking the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, but the thought crossed my mind, “perhaps I need to go to church for communion.”
About a year later, I actually discovered what the Church taught about Holy Communion, the Eucharist, and began to be drawn by it. The Eucharist is the thank-offering of Jesus and the Church to the Father. The bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus and is lifted high for all to adore and then consume. Thus, the service or Mass, reaches its climax in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
So why go to Church? Jesus Christ manifests his presence and you get to commune with him in such a way that would be impossible for you to do on your own. God is everywhere, but just as in Moses’ day with the burning bush, the Eucharist is a special manifestation of Christ’s presence. Partaking in the Eucharist puts the burning bush inside of you. It is the intimate union of the Bride and the Bridegroom. The better question becomes: Why would you ever not go to Church? Jesus Christ is there!