I have been asked a particular question severally, a question I find disturbing, un-Catholic, and in fact, unchristian. At what point in Mass is one considered late or sinful to join? Many of those who ask this question expect a definite answer from you, to tell them exactly what point they shouldn’t join the Mass. This often asked question suggests that late coming for Mass is permissible and that what really matters is how late you were. Such thinking is completely wrong, un-Catholic, and a clear sign of lack of understanding of what the Mass really is.
The Mass or the Eucharistic Celebration is a prayer and a sacrifice, the source, and summit of our faith. It is the offering of the body and blood of Jesus Christ to the Father for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the world, through and by the same Jesus Christ. The Mass is not a mere re-enactment of Good Friday’s events, but an event in the here and now, a reality and not a memorial. At Mass, a mysterious transformation takes place. Ordinary bread and wine, the work of human hands are presented and are transformed into the Bread of life (the body of Christ) and the Blood of eternal salvation, the work of the divine hand.
The Mass is not a drama or a show that one could walk in and out of at any time. It is a prayer and the highest sacrifice one could offer to God. Therefore, it is disconcerting to hear a few people ask when it is considered sinful or late to a Mass.
I strongly feel there is just no need to talk about what point in the Mass it is considered late to come in; there is truly no need for it because there is no room for lateness at Mass. I mean, one is expected to be at Mass from the beginning.
The Mass begins with the cross’s sign, which is the traditional way of beginning a prayer in the Catholic Church. Be there when the prayer begins.