This weekend served as a palate cleanser…dull, ordinary, uneventful and mercifully, covid free and not freezing.
We went to the late mass and as it happened, my child who comes but does not believe, always listens to the homily. So it kills me when the priest meanders or turns the Gospel into an opportunity to pound a particular point not connected with the Gospel or any of the readings. He listens. He catches it. He feels justified in laughing at it.
So I asked him, could he write a better one. It stopped the mocking. However, I sat there with the challenge of the reality, that priests have to be more than ready to preach the Gospel at all times, and most especially, when someone is at the mass looking for a reason to stay. Do not give them a reason to stop listening.
Now I’ve known some priests with Godly vocations and poor homiletics. I’ve also known some priests who struggled with consistency for a variety of reasons, and some who needed to honestly, go for a walk off campus to reacquaint themselves with reality. Bad homilies can deaden curiosity or a listening soul. It turns the examination after the readings into a dull paper about something other than Jesus and the one thing the mass should never be, is about something other than Jesus. We can tell stories of being led to Jesus, of Jesus breaking into our lives unannounced, unexpected, and asking for more than we hoped or planned or imagined, but we have to draw the line from the Gospel to Jesus, even if it pitstops on a moment in one’s life.
So for the sake of every person out there who managed to get someone to come to mass who otherwise might not, I’m begging all priests to recognize the reality of their responsibility for that first part of the mass. It’s not time to stump. It’s not time to overshare. It’s not time to reminisce. It’s time to help the laity see that the Gospel is alive and speaking today to each of them individually. Imagine the reality.
Jesus comes to the Synagogue. He reads aloud. “Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down,
and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.
He said to them,
“Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Here’s where the priest could have brought the congregation in, because if we believe Jesus is Lord, then we must follow. If we don’t, as C.S. Lewis says, He’s either a liar and we should not listen to him, or a lunatic and we should not listen to him.
Asking us to recognize the leap of faith those present in His presence needed to make to rejoice at this news, would help us waken our own faith that needs leaping. We believe the Eucharist is the real presence. We should be leaping. We believe Jesus is resurrected and seeks to invite us to spend eternity in the Father’s love, we should be dancing. We profess all of this with all the energy and enthusiasm of a child reading a forced report on a book they didn’t read. We don’t engage the imagination or the mind when we let the Gospel wash over us and slide past. We are like all who sat amongst the 5,000, who went home and told people they sat down for a picnic of bread and fish or who attended the wedding and simply said, “The wine was good.”
So I will be seeking to bring the skeptic to a different mass time, where I hope he can be fed. I’m also going to maybe read aloud the Gospel and ask Him BEFORE we go, what he thinks would make a good homily. Maybe we can start a dialogue there.