A Question I Was Asked:

Is It Okay to Take Mass With Catholics?

The Question:

The Catholic View of Righteousness: 'I must keep striving for the righteous and holy behaviour which God requires with the assistance of the rosary, confession, the sacraments, and obedience to my church. But only when entering heaven at death can I be assured of my salvation.'

The Protestant View of Righteousness: 'I can never attain the righteousness which God requires by my own efforts, but I am saved by the righteousness of Jesus Christ and become covered by His grace from the point of my conversion onwards. I don't need worry about my salvation because it is already assured (Romans 8).'

Should we biblical Christians recognize Roman Catholics as our brothers and sisters in Christ, too? May we accompany them in mass, if such a possible occasion should present itself? Or would it be a sin for us?

UK Apologetics Reply:

I think we should (in a loose sense) recognise them as brothers and sisters in Christ whose understanding has not yet fully matured (since they follow a works-based understanding of righteousness, not fully understanding grace, nor the place of law, as Paul taught it).

Join them in mass? No, we should not see that as a possibility. However, Catholics themselves would not allow you to join them in mass in any case. They believe it is only for Catholics. I don't doubt the utter sincerity of many Catholics but we can't underestimate the gulf between us and them in some areas of worship and understanding. Be generally friendly to them, offer to pray for any of their sick brought to your attention, but there is limited scope to go beyond that, at least, in my opinion. Now let us look at certain points regarding the Catholic concept of 'mass' - these are important for us to understand if we are to properly address this question.

Mass is Not Like Communion.

The problem with Catholic mass is it is a very different understanding to that of Protestant communion. Catholic Mass is virtually seen as a regular re-sacrifice of Christ, although Catholics will often deny this. They want to say that Christ was certainly offered once for all and that the Mass is not a 're-sacrifice' but, rather, a regular "re-presentation" of the sacrifice. Yet the fact remains that they will keep using such expressions as "the sacrifice of the mass." Surely if one states that 'it is a sacrifice which occurs over and over again' and since it is said to be 'a true and proper sacrifice which is propitiatory,' then logically it must be a re-sacrifice of Christ. If it is not, then how can it be called a sacrifice of Christ? Catholicism also believes that the bread literally turns into Christ's flesh and the wine literally turns into Christ's blood (the teaching of 'transubstantiation'), so they really do teach that a new sacrifice occurs at mass (even if there is ambiguity on this point in some of their writings). So there appears to be some inconsistency here. In contrast, Protestants are careful to follow Paul's guidelines on communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), ensuring that they do not presumptuously go beyond it.

Important Biblical Points on the Sacrifice of Christ

The Sacrifice is offered just once, that being effective for all time - this is a very important point we should not lose sight of. We need to look at one or two Scriptures here:

"For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself," (Hebrews 7:26-27, my emphasis).

The Majority Protestant View of Communion (although Lutherans markedly differ):
It is a memorial and a commemoration of our Lord's sacrifice. The bread and wine symbolizing the body and blood of Christ, this giving us a reminder that Christ fully gave of Himself to facilitate our salvation. The believer whose heart is right before God may truly 'partake' of Christ Who should be seen as fully present in the communion service. Jesus, after all, promised to be present whenever Christians gather together for worship (Matthew 18:20). In preparation for this service, believers should be careful to examine themselves (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

The Catholic View of Mass:
The Mass, sometimes called 'the unbloody sacrifice,' is a mystical reality in which the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is renewed, or 're-presented,' the bread literally turning into Christ's flesh and the wine becoming Christ's blood. Christ is truly present on the altar which is a place of sacrifice. The grace and favour of God may be freely received by the faithful Catholic through this sacrament.

"So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him," (Hebrews 9:28, my emphasis).

"By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all, And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God," (Hebrews 10:10-12, my emphasis).

While not wishing to be critical, we would be blind indeed not to be reminded of the concept of Catholic mass in the phrase, 'every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.'
The Facts are: 1. Repeated rituals of sacrifice are ineffective. 2. The priesthood (of the Levites) is ended in Christ, so why has Catholicism strived so hard to recreate another form of it? Christ broke down the wall of partition between us and God with the rent vail (Matthew 27:50-51), rendering the priesthood redundant.

Christians themselves - of all nations - are now God's temple, no further priesthood being required. This surely also means that any ritualistic repetition of the supreme sacrifice is unnecessary, communion being sufficient as a continual reminder.

"For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near," (Hebrews 10:1).

"And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins," (Hebrews 10:11).

This is why Protestants should insist on referring to the 'table' of communion, not to the 'altar' (which was a place of sacrifice). Again, Catholicism's insistence on using the name 'altar' in connection with the eucharist, denotes their concept of a new sacrifice occurring at every mass service. Roman Catholicism does accept that there was only one sacrifice of Christ upon the cross, but insists they have the right to re-present this at every single service of the mass.

So the thoughtful Protestant, hopefully well-versed in the New Testament, must reject the Catholic concept of 'mass' even though being respectful of devout and sincere Catholics.

Robin A. Brace. October 30th, 2013.