Teen Talk

What to say in response to typical teen questions regarding going to Mass.

I read in your last column that we should be willing to calmly discuss the importance of Mass attendance with our teens who balk at going, but I’m not sure what to say. Help!

We wanted to follow up with answers to some common objections kids raise. Here’s a few:

Teen: Why do I have to go? Jesus never celebrated Mass. He just hung out with people.

It is true that Jesus spent time with anyone and everyone, especially sinners. He did this because of how much they needed his consolation and forgiveness. He had an awesome effect on people; they longed to be with him. Sometimes all they needed to do was get close enough to touch him, and they would be healed. So, you’re right — he did hang out a lot. It was shocking to the authorities, but he did it anyway, because he wanted to give himself to the neediest of people, no matter what the cost, even death. That’s the coolest thing of all. So, wouldn’t it make sense, out of his perfect love for us, that Jesus would desire to make himself present to us in a real, tangible way like he did with his disciples when he walked the earth? Wouldn’t it be the most radical idea of all that God himself, already humbled as an itinerant preacher, and humbled by death on the cross, would continue to humble himself for us today by making his body, blood, soul and divinity available to us in the most humble form of all: bread and wine? (And, of course, his Last Supper was the first Mass.)

Teen: But Mass is so boooorring!

When you were younger, we did a lot to make Mass more interesting, even entertaining, since much was beyond your understanding. However, as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians: “When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.” It is because we think of you as a young adult now that we expect you to realize that Mass isn’t there for your entertainment. Rather, it is your duty. Think about all the great stuff in your life, and all that is to come — all the joys, the relationships, the fun. All of these are yours because of God’s perfect love for you. God is the author of it all, and every moment of our existence we owe to him. Even better, he desires that you dwell with him in heaven in perfect happiness for all eternity. Can you be loved in a more awesome way than that? Put in that perspective, one hour at Mass seems like only the beginning of what we owe him. If we truly realized this, it would never occur to us not to want to go to Mass.

Teen: Okay, but shouldn't I still get something out of it?

Of course! Just not what you might expect. The Jews had all sorts of lofty expectations about how the Savior would appear. They thought he would be a warrior king who would lead them into victory over their earthly oppressors. Instead, he came from humble roots, never taking up arms for them. He called them to repentance, and offered them the reward of eternal life over any glory in this life. It was not what they expected, yet for those who embraced what he offered, they experienced joy beyond measure, even if that meant martyrdom.

Similarly, for us, what could appear to be mere bread and wine of nothing but symbolic importance is instead Christ himself. In receiving him, we receive the supernatural grace that enables us to live lives of happiness and virtue. We all know we can’t face life’s challenges on our own strength, but “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me” (Philippians 4:13).

The Eucharist is at the center of our faith because it brings to us the very source of that strength: Jesus himself. Next time you think you’re not getting anything out of Mass, remember that Jesus is always there to give you the gift of himself.

The McDonalds are family-life directors for the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama.