During his general audience at the Vatican on January 2, 2019, Pope Francis condemned Catholics who go to church every day but “go on hating” their fellow men.
How often we see the scandal of those people who go to church and are there all day long, or go every day, and then live by hating others or speaking ill of people. This is a scandal! It is better not to go to church: living this way, as if they were atheists.
An indirect criticism of daily Mass goers?
The problem with this quote is that it is an indirect criticism of Catholics who do go to Church daily: in particular, the daily Mass goers.
Why does the Pope choose to criticise the remaining few Catholics who not only fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation, but go beyond it and receive the Eucharistic Lord daily?
Why not focus on correcting instead the growing percentage of Catholics who no longer go to Church and no longer fulfill their Sunday Mass obligation and therefore wilfully commit a mortal sin? After all, the vast majority of Catholics nowadays are actually nominal Catholics who no longer attend Sunday Mass. In the Philippines, for example, the only Catholic country in Asia whose population of more than 100 million people are mostly (90%+) Catholic, a recent survey showed that 63% of baptised Catholics no longer attend Sunday Mass regularly.
Those who don’t hear Mass on Sundays deserve more “correction” from the Pope, than those who know the value to their spiritual lives of daily attendance of the Holy Mass, the highest form of prayer.
The transformative power of the Holy Eucharist
The question that needs to be asked is this: Just how many daily Mass goers are there who hate other people?
To indirectly imply that there is a substantial number of daily Mass goers who “hate their fellowmen” is to question the power of the Eucharist to transform the lives of people. We become what we eat, after all. The Eucharist leads daily Mass goers to become more and more like Jesus, whom they receive every day.
Better to be an atheist?
In a similarly-themed address on February 23, 2017, the Pope suggested that it it is better to be an atheist than to be one of “many” Catholics who he said lead a hypocritical double life. In improvised comments in the sermon of his private morning Mass in his residence, he said: “It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life…There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association.’”
He said that some of these people should also say “‘my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life’.”
“There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”
But is it really better to be an atheist, rather than be a daily Mass goer who “hates” his brother, as the Pope suggests?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has condemned atheism as “one of the most serious problems of our time”. The Catechism states (2123-2136):
Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time… Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion…The first commandment summons man to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him above all else…Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the first commandment.
Atheism, which is an absolute rejection of God leads one to Hell. To die an unrepentant atheist means to deny oneself the eternal beatitude of Heaven.
The daily Mass goer, on the other hand, who because of human frailty falls once in a while to sins against their brethren, is absolutely better off than an atheist, because with daily reception of the Eucharist, he is slowly transformed to the Eucharistic heart of the Lord, and therefore has a much higher probability of going to Heaven than an unrepentant atheist.
What the Saints say about Daily Mass
To close this article, it will be helpful for us to recall the words of some of the great saints of our Faith regarding the importance of the Eucharist and Daily Mass:
Saint John Vianney: “All the good works in the world are not equal to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass because they are the works of men; but the Mass is the work of God. Martyrdom is nothing in comparison for it is but the sacrifice of man to God; but the Mass is the sacrifice of God for man.”
St. Pio of Pietrelcina: “It would be easier for the world to survive without the sun than to do without Holy Mass.”
Mother Teresa: “The Mass is the spiritual food that sustains me, without which I could not get through one single hour in my life.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori: “One single Mass gives more honor to God than all the penances of the Saints, the labors of the Apostles, the sufferings of the Martyrs and even the burning love of the Blessed Mother of God.”
St. Gregory the Great: “The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.”
Saint John Paul II: “The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross.”
St. Leonard of Port Maurice: “O you deluded people, what are you doing? Why do you not hasten to the churches to hear as many Masses as you can?”
by Paul Simeon, Veritas