Can a Christian participate in Mass?

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imagesRecently the Pope was in town (you already know this) prompting many discussions regarding Christians and Catholics. One question developed, “Can a Christian participate in Catholic Mass?” This may be a simple answer, but when someone responds, “Why?” I think we need a biblical response. Why is it not okay to participate in Mass?

Think about this from someone who says, “Yes, what’s the problem?” Here is the argument. Often the priests and people do not share similar views regarding Mass and therefore a person may partake with the right heart and theology despite the fact that leadership communicates a wrong theology. When you ask them, “Is Jesus recrucified in Communion?” They say, “No, of course not. Communion simply calls us to remember Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for our sins.” In fact, (continuing the argument) I know many Catholics who love Jesus, obey Him, and have no clue what Catholicism officially teaches. This is common. Some people practically reject Catholicism’s doctrine. So, why can’t Catholic Mass be both right and wrong at the same time depending on the individual’s perspective?

We do well to realize this distinctionUnknown-1 and not immediately assume every person understands Catholicism. I also applaud this argument for recognizing motives and actions must coordinate. Simply participating in communion with a solid church does not mean a person “participated” in communion. So, let’s reshape the question somewhat, “Why can’t a person who understands communion biblically participate in Mass?”

Answer: Because God says we should not participate in Communion in an unworthy manner. Paul says,

27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

I hear “worthy manner” interpreted as making sure I am a believer with no unconfessed sin. It’s not good for an unbeliever to participate. Make sure you’ve evaluated yourself and know you’re saved. If you are saved, and someone has something against you, go and be reconciled so you can participate in a worthy manner. So, is this wrong?

No. It’s the right doctrine from the wrong text. First, communion is for believers. Unbelievers should not partake. Second, before you bring any offering in corporate worship, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Jesus instructs, “leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come present your offering” (Matt 5:23). So, if you’re arguing with your spouse and have not sought reconciliation, then please skip communion. If you’ve sinned against someone in the church, then you are not unified with the church. Therefore, before communion, reconcile. Have a clear conscience.

So what does it mean to participate in a worthy manner? Paul calls the church members to make sure the church conducts communion in a worth-while manner. Consider the context.

17 But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you (1 Cor. 11:17-22).

Paul confronts the Corinthian church regarding their worship. The church is not united. Some do not wait on others, taking the meals early. Others are drunk. Some come and get no food. There are factions in the church. Communion should unite the church as it collectively recalls and proclaims the death of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17). This is a unifying participation adulterated by factions and selfishness. A Corinthian should have evaluated this, judged it improper, and abstained from the practice. This is precisely what Paul meant when he said, “Eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly” (1 Cor. 11:29). What body is he talking about? Is Paul talking about our own, individual, fleshly body? In the context of 1 Corinthians 11 (& 12-14), he addresses the church body. The problem from verses 17-22 deals with the church body.

The following pericope focuses on body life too, “So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. Then in chapter 12 Paul discusses Spiritual gifts as they pertain to the church body. The focus of chapters 11-14 centers on the churches’ life and interrelationships in their worship to Christ.

So Paul instructs believers to evaluate their church and make sure the church participates in a worthy manner. Should the leaders have allowed this unruly worship? No. But Paul doesn’t even address them. He addresses everyone. Everyone is culpable. Know your churches’ Communion practice and beliefs. Make sure they partake in a worthy manner before you join them.

This brings us to the Catholic church. Simply put, Communion in the Catholic church recrucifies Christ every day. Christ is called down into the bread and wine. He is crucified and dies for your sins. Here is their catechism:

The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: ‘The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.’ ‘ And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367).

This is unbiblical. It does not match the Word of God. Christ has no need to ever suffer on the cross again. Consider Hebrews, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. . . . For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (10:10, 14). The author emphasizes the once, only once, and never needed again, sacrifice of Jesus Christ. To sacrifice him today, in Mass (all around the world), undermines the cross receiving zero biblical support. Therefore Mass is a sinful practice. It is every person’s responsibility to judge the church and participate in a worthy manner. To participate in another sacrifice, undermines the work of Christ.

Therefore, a sincere, truth-understanding, Christian cannot participate in the Catholic Mass.

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  • MatthewRygiel

    Your article is incorrect in what the Catholic Church teaches. The Church does not teach that we re crucify Christ every day. He doesn’t die every day.

    What the Catechism says is that the ONE sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the SAME as the sacrifice of the mass. It is not re-crucifying every day.

    “The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is a memorial and because it applies its fruit” (CCC 1366)

    There is only ONE sacrifice. The mass is propitiatory simply because it is the SAME sacrifice, represented.
    And it fits perfectly the prophecy of Malachi 1:11:
    “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts.

    How does the protestant church fulfill this prophecy? The mass is celebrated every day, every hour, somewhere in the world. The ONE sacrifice of Christ is ever present to the Father. The fruits of the ONE sacrifice is shared among the faithful in time, every day.

    • Jason

      Our terminology may be different, but the picture we’re creating is the same, “Potato, potatoe”. “the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner . . . this sacrifice is truly propitiatory” He is offered again. Why does he need to be offered again? What happens if I don’t participate in Catholic Mass? My sins are not forgiven? I cannot be saved? We don’t need to re present Christ to have the fruits. Read Hebrews 10:14-18. “There is no longer any offering for sin.” Re-presenting him violates Heb 10:18. . . . Have you actually read Hebrews? Like in it’s entirety? I’m not sure how someone can maintain the RCC priesthood, the pope, prayer to Mary, confession, or RCC view of atonement if he accurately understood Hebrews.

      Christ’s body and blood are not physically present in the sacrifice. That doctrine developed in 900 AD, codified in 1140 and 1215. But now we go in circles.

      Malachi 1:1 is not a prophecy about communion. A natural reading of the text would NEVER insert the Lord’s Supper there. And since Scripture says believer’s obedience and thanks is our offering, perhaps that’s what Malachi references (Heb 13:15-16)? Thanks, I’ll be gone the rest of the day. I pray Scripture leads you.

      • MatthewRygiel

        He is not offered again. This is again misrepresentation of what the Church teaches. You can say all you want that he is offered again but that is NOT what the church teaches. Lets talk about what the church teaches not a straw man.

        I’ve read Hebrews tons of times. There is nothing in it that contradicts ANY Catholic doctrine. You think it does because clearly you don’t know what the Church teaches. The church teaches exactly what Hebrews says.

        Jesus = ONE SACRIFICE. No catholic believes that Jesus is re sacrificed at the mass. That’s absurd.

        “Christ’s body and blood are not physically present in the sacrifice. That doctrine developed in 900 AD, codified in 1140 and 1215. But now we go in circles.”

        Please read some history. Church fathers etc. This is crazy what you wrote above. Real presence is in the bible. John 6??? In Church fathers, In Church history. It can be easily shown from early Christian writings. Everyone believed it. Including Luther!

        Justin Martyr in the year 151!!!
        And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach aretrue, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are calledGospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, This do in remembrance of Me,Luke 22:19 this is My body; and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, This is My blood; and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed withcertain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

        I would love to continue to talk as I love Jesus and love to talk about him and his Church. But lets make sure we talk about what the Church really teach and not what you think it does. I am happy to clarify any false misconceptions you may have. And remember the bible is a Catholic Book.

        • Jason

          Matthew, I certainly thank you for your time. Sorry for the delay, been busy.

          So, What you’re saying and what the Catholic Church say are two different things. I certainly think you do not view Communion as a re-sacrifice. But I do think you contradict official Catholic teaching. Transubstantiation is unbiblical.

          Personally, I’d encourage you to get out of the Catholic Church since I think 1 Corinthians says you must participate in a worthy manner which you cannot do in the Catholic Church (this was the point of this article). I’d encourage you to go find a Bible teaching church with more like-minded Lord’s Supper that accords with Scripture (the sole authority).

          Thanks for your time. I’ll be writing an article on John 6 shortly (Lord-willing).

          Have a good day and thank you for the discussion. I appreciate your willingness to communicate and explain. Thank you.

          Jason

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