April 7, 2013

I sat through one of the most depressing and disheartening homilies yesterday at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Church, some old buck well-intentioned (I guess) but well beyond his ability to connect spiritually and emotionally with his parish on one of the most poignant and theologically deep Gospels any priest is ever going to have the privilege of speaking about. It’s from John 20:19-29:

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Hmmm. Lots of stuff going on there, wouldn’t you agree? So what does this priest choose as his subject matter for his homily? No less than the moral lessons found in the Broadway play “The Elephant Man” (from 1977, no less, how’s that for contemporary!). There’s a ten year-old girl and her mom sitting next to me and two teenage girls with their parents sitting in front of me, and I’m wondering what on God’s green earth they’re going to get out of this snoozer of a homily. It was really pissing me off to the point where it took all the strength I could muster not to stand up and cause a scene. I mean, if this is the best the Catholic Church can do the first Mass after Easter then count me out!

There’s so much going one here that applies not just to a bunch of legendary characters two thousand years ago but to each and every one of us today. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, rich or poor, or single, married, divorced, gay, straight, or anything. Think about Jesus’ words in the context of his presenting himself to his followers:

Peace be with you.

This to a group of followers Jesus had walked, talked, taught, and shared every part of his life with since he had chosen them to follow Him and his calling. Talk about your highs and lows and ups and downs! In the past week they had all been received triumphantly into Jerusalem along with their image of a King who would set Israel right before God, then watched as it all went completely wrong before their eyes – Peter disowning Him, Judas betraying Him, the rest of them scattering at the condemnation, suffering, and death of their Master. And now here’s Jesus appearing before their astonished and unbelieving eyes, saying four simple, yet timeless words:

Peace be with you.

If you think about it, Jesus’ words are God’s words to a world that disowns, betrays, and scatters before Him every minute of every day, every day of every week, every week of every year, every year of every century, every century of every millennium. Human nature doesn’t change, the only thing that doesn’t is God’s love for us and His desire for us never to feel beyond His love for us. Amidst all the turmoil, trouble, disillusionment, violence, and stress of the world around us, Jesus’ words are a source of comfort and strength no one or no thing can come close to.

Peace be with you.

You don’t think these words can apply to people young and old? But no, as this priest droned on about the freakin’ Elephant Man play I couldn’t help but wonder what the young people beside and in front of me must have been thinking. Or anyone else in the congregation, for that matter. The Church is supposed to be all about sharing the revelation of Jesus Christ risen from the dead and how that (at least in this day and age) incomprehensible act of resurrection applies to each and every one of us. And having some old, well-intentioned but totally out of touch priest droning on about a Broadway play of twenty-five years after the fact just doesn’t cut it for me. I mean, w
Where’s the passion? Where’s the joy? Where’s the love and commitment to the Gospel?

Call me picky or just as out of touch as this priest was, but if you’re going to preach the Gospel do it with passion and a message that’s contemporary to your audience. I mean, you can’t tell me that there aren’t people – young people especially – that aren’t experiencing in their own lives some sense of betrayal, disillusionment, and loss, and looking for some message that transcends the usual bullshit they can find on TV any given night. This Gospel and this Church must have a message and a way of communicating that message if it wants to be relevant in this world.

To see such an opportunity wasted pisses me off to almost the point of despair.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 00:49 | Comments (0)
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