After 4 years as a Catholic, I still take issue with confession & the obligation to attend Mass. Going to confession at 3pm on a Saturday is kind of obnoxious. I mean, who chose that time? If it happened 1st thing on a Saturday morning or even around noon, great. I think I would be there more often. But 3pm cuts right into the middle of everything. That said, I tend to put it off... and then sin tends to build. I get into that mentality of "Well, I'm already in mortal sin, so why not just stay home from Mass?". So I start missing Mass & on it goes. I wonder how many others can relate? Of course, one can make an appt. with a priest at any time, but then there goes anonymity. There always seems to be an excuse.
I was having this conversation about confession & Mass in prayer one day, asking Jesus to show me WHY I had to go. What's the big deal? If I can confess to Him in private anyway, why go to a priest? I have access to the readings for every day of the year so I can read the Word for myself. Why do I need to sit in a crowd of people & hear it at Mass? And, if He already lives in my heart, why do I need to physically receive the sacraments? I began to realize my argument sounded very "Protestant-y".
Here's what the reply was: Confession is important because the very act involves stepping out of life as I know it. I must go somewhere specific. Others will see me waiting. When its my turn, I'm "seen & heard" by another & I'm seen again when I exit. On one hand, confession is a declaration of repentance ratified by the presence of witnesses, but its also my witness to others. How many times have I been waiting in line when someone else arrived behind me? Phew! I'm no longer alone. Sometimes catching a glimpse of someone leaving with a look of relief on their face reminds me that God is merciful. They are a witness to my conversion and I am a witness to theirs.
In short, confession is an act of community.
As for Mass, the same is true. My presence there is not only a witness to others, but an act of giving. I'm saying "I've come out from my life to share in yours". And isn't that the essence of what Jesus did when He was born of Mary? He left His Father's side in Heaven to stand by ours on earth... When I go to Mass, I stand by others & share a Creed, a Word & a Sacrifice in common. I'm as much a witness & potential encouragement to their faith as they are to mine. This doesn't make the obligation to go any easier, but seeing it in a different light definitely challenges me.
Attending Mass is an act of giving- of my self- to God & to those around me.