Malankara World

Spiritual and/or Moral Articles

Being Good or Going to Mass

by Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Not long ago I had a conversation with a woman which is pretty typical. She's real nice, wealthy, upper middle class and Catholic. I ask her where they go to Mass. She says they don't go to Mass, but they are "really good people." She then proceeds to tell me how good she is.

So I'm at St Joseph's Catholic School and I ask the kids, "So here's a Catholic question for you.. what's better?
'to be good and not go to Mass' or
'to go to Mass and be bad?"

They're pretty smart.
A few of them say, "Be good and not go to Mass."
Some others come up with better answers, "What if you went to Mass and you were bad, but going to Mass made you realize you were bad, and so you went to confession. Wouldn't that be better?"
Another said, "You couldn't go to Mass and fully participate and be bad. Just going and being close to God would make you good."
Another was even smarter, "The person who says they're good is bad because they're self righteous. It's the person who thinks they're bad who's really good."

So the conversation continues and I ask individual kids, "Steven, are you a good person?" Now they're beginning to get it and they're laughing. Steve says, "No Father, I'm not good. I'm bad."

"That's the right answer!" I exclaim. "Mary are you a good person?" She comes up with a corker, "By God's grace I hope I might one day be good." Wow! These kids are on it.

This is the how exciting paradox of religion.

Anyone who says, "We don't go to Mass, but we are really good people" have missed the Christian bus big time. They don't get it and so greatly don't get it that they are almost uneducable. Their misunderstanding is so profound that you couldn't even say to them what they haven't got because they don't know what they don't know. The astounding blindness of such folks is that nine times out of then they then turn around and blame the people who do go to Mass for being hypocrites. Their lack of self awareness and spiritual awareness reveals the depth of their own hypocrisy for they think they are good, and never see that the essential prayer--the prayer at the heart of it all is the sinner's plea, "Lord Jesus Christ, Have Mercy on me a Sinner."

This prayer, so simple and so profound is the prayer that truly liberates. See how free and how child like you can be if you simply say this prayer? Within this prayer is the soul's freedom and the soul's joy. Within this prayer is the simple trust in God on which everything else depends. Therefore, "Being good or Going to Mass" is a totally false dichotomy.

As one of the students said, "You can't really go to Mass and mean it and be bad, and if you don't go to Mass you can't really be good."

See Also:

Sin and its Confession
Nature teaches that it is the duty of erring children to make a confession to their earthly father, and the grace of God in the heart teaches us that we, as Christians, owe the same duty to our heavenly father.

Be Happy With What You Have
It is easy to think "If I could just get a new car, a bigger house, a better job, or more money, then I'll be happy." We tend to view happiness as a commodity attainable by wealth. However, as the old saying goes, "money cannot buy happiness."

Explanation of God
This is what an 8-year old wrote about God. Vey insightful.

The call
As soon as a man has found Christ, he begins to find others. I will not believe that thou hast tasted of the honey of the gospel if thou canst eat it all thyself. True grace puts an end to all spiritual monopoly.

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