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The Mass: A Sacrifice for Sins

Question: I am a Roman Catholic but I was never taught that the Mass is a sacrifice for sin as you wrote in your website. The mass is the commemoration of Jesus giving himself for us on the cross. In fact Christ himself said, "Do this in remembrance of me."

Answer: Many people wrongly think that the Mass is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ, much the same as the Lord's Supper in Evangelical churches. It is not; the Mass is something more than a memorial. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the Mass is a real sacrifice for sin. Please read carefully the following citations from Catholic sources.

  1. If anyone says that the sacrifice of the mass is one only of praise and thanksgiving; or that it is a mere commemoration of the sacrifice consummated on the cross but not a propitiatory one; or that it profits him only who receives, and ought not to be offered for the living and the dead, for sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities, let him be anathema (Council of Trent, session 22, canon 3).

  2. The Mass is the unbloody sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ...The Mass is the same sacrifice as that of the Cross because the offering and the priest are the same - Christ our Blessed Lord; and the ends for which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered are the same as those of the sacrifice of the Cross...The ends for which the sacrifice of the Cross was offered were to honor and glorify God; to thank Him for all the graces bestowed on the whole world; to satisfy God's justice for the sins of men; to obtain all graces and blessings (Baltimore Catechism).

  3. As often as the Sacrifice of the Cross in which 'Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed' (1 Corinthians. 5:7) is celebrated on the altar (i.e. during the mass), the work of our redemption is carried on (Vatican II, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church).

  4. The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1366).

  5. The august sacrifice of the altar, then, is no mere empty commemoration of the passion and death of Jesus Christ, but a true and proper act of sacrifice, whereby the High Priest by an unbloody immolation offers Himself a most acceptable victim to the Eternal Father, as He did upon the cross (Mediator Dei, Encyclical of Pope Pius XII)

  6. It is a good idea to recall at the very outset what may be termed the heart and core of the doctrine, namely that, by means of the Mystery of the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of the Cross which was once carried out on Calvary is re-enacted in wonderful fashion and is constantly recalled, and its salvific power is applied to the forgiving of the sins we commit each day (Mysterium Fidei; Encyclical of Pope Paul VI).

So, the Catholic Church officially teaches the Mass is a sacrifice -- indeed the very same sacrifice of Christ on Calvary -- and it is offered to satisfy God's justice and atone for sins. During the Mass Christ's sacrifice on the cross is not only remembered but it is also carried on, perpetuated, renewed, re-presented and re-enacted.

The Catholic doctrine on the Mass is a distortion of the biblical doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. The Bible describes the Eucharist as a "memorial" or "commemoration" of Christ, and a "proclamation" of His death, and not as a sacrifice for sin. More seriously, the Mass is the denial of the perfection and sufficiency of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary. If it needs to be carried on, perpetuated, renewed re-presented and re-enacted, the implication is that His once-for-all sacrifice was not enough for the forgiveness of His people. Let's say that I go to my friend's house. If there is no answer when I knock at the door, I will renew my efforts and keep on knocking. If, however, the door is opened, I would stop knocking because my purpose would have been achieved. Even so, having accomplished the redemption of His people by His death on the cross, Christ ascended into heaven and is now seated on the right hand of God. His mission is accomplished!

Please read the following passages from the book of Hebrews and note carefully how the author emphasizes that the sacrifice of Christ is done once for all:

  1. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself (Hebrews 7:25:27).

  2. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another - He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation (Hebrews 9:24-28).

  3. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin (Hebrew 10:10-18).

The Bible repeats over and over again that Christ offered His sacrifice "once" and "once for all." He "does not need daily to offer up sacrifices." He is in heaven "not that He should offer Himself often." Today "there is no longer an offering for sin." His purpose was achieved: by His once-for-all sacrifice, He "put away sin" and thus He "sanctified" and "perfected forever" His people.

You have two choices. You can either continue to attend Mass, thus showing that you do not really believe that Jesus can save you to the uttermost by His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. Or else, if you are certain that His sacrifice is finished, perfect and complete, put your trust in Him, and join a Christian community where the Gospel is faithfully preached, and Christ's ordinances (Baptism and the Eucharist) are observed according to the pattern and teaching of the New Testament. It is the great privilege of all believers to meet together to remember the Lord and proclaim His death by observing the Lord’s Supper together.

© Dr Joseph Mizzi