Thursday, June 11, 2009


There are a number of ways in which Christ is present at the Mass and within that number there is a hierarchy in the degrees to which He is present. For example, He is most fully present in His Body and Blood. As we prepare to listen to the Gospel we also prepare to listen to Christ present speaking to us in His own voice. (That is why the Gospel is proclaimed and not read. Get the difference?) So to prepare us for listening to Christ a couple of things take place. We sing the Gospel verse with a threefold “Alleluia!” We stand out of respect, in alertness, and actively listening. We have the call again, “The Lord be with you . . .” and we bless ourselves asking that we might be ready to hear, be open to truth, willing to be transformed in our thoughts, in what we say, and in our hearts. Such a special moment is this that it is occasionally accompanied by candles and incense.

At the conclusion it is announced, “The Gospel of the Lord!” and the response given, “Thanks be to God!” This is not an idle and simply nice response. Thank God! He has saved us and continues today through His Church to announce His kingdom to us, His saving Word, and His great Love for us! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We can’t help but cry out at these words, “Thanks be to God!”

Then we sit. Usually the priest (occasionally the deacon) as “father” gives his thoughts on what has been said in the readings or celebrated on the day or season. We have returned to a more relaxed listening mode. Ideally this is an outstanding moment for spiritual and/or intellectual growth . It is one the most important duties of the clergy to help apply what we have heard to our lives (and one of the very few places that the priest may make up in his own words whatever –within reason-it is he wishes to say.)

All that being said, not all homilists are great to say the least. But a nugget of worth can be found even in an abandoned mine. As Fr. J Glenn Murray SJ once said, “Even if someone is as dry as dust on toast in the desert, God still works.” If nothing else, talk to Jesus who is sitting there in the tabernacle.

There is the case however of priests who even talk about things that are silly or even contrary to the faith. As upsetting and aggravating as this might be remember that the Word that you heard and the Body and Blood that you are about to receive is still Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Do not deprive yourself of this greatest of gifts because you do not care for the homilist. Jesus, in all of His wisdom, did not make the holiness of the priest a factor in the efficacy of the sacrament. And the Church, in her wisdom, makes the homily the only part of the Mass to which we need not respond, “Amen.”


Warren said...

One priest I know likes to do "2 minute summer homilies" for Sunday masses in July and August.

We get you out and back to the IMPORTANT things you have to do today, like mowing the lawn, and riding your bicycle, and sipping ice-tea, as fast as we can, and we therefore will ask as little of you as we possibly can, except to be here for this 50 minute speedy-mass.




Carol said...

I think some of the very first Masses were necessarily much quicker! As were those cotside with Fr. Kolbe, or perhaps also in the Catacombs. Geez, Warren, usually folks aren't looking for Mass to be longer, but the Greek Orthodox service lasts about 3 hours (maybe it was days; felt like years) --and if permission is granted first, it counts as Mass..unless I just split all those hairs into utter cowlicks. You'd have hated our Fr. Canadian church's Mass --28 minutes give or take a minute (we know, because there was a clock on the choir loft!).

I've reduced all my Mass-beefs to one complaint, because one must pick one's battles wisely, even if one may soon go deaf in one ear from the "family Mass": No singing during Holy Communion. It'd be really cool if the choirfolks were the last to receive rather than cutting into line and taking thought away from Whom we are about to hold and receive. Seriously, we could even do without the instrumental, but the singing and singing and singing before during and after, approaches being a dislike crime.

Anonymous said...

Carol, I agree about all the singing at Communion. Before receiving, I'm trying to recollect myself. The chosen song may or may not be helpful in that regard. After receiving, I'm trying to talk to Jesus. I just can't sing, even if I "like" the song. Again, the song may or may not help with my post-Communion prayer. I also agree that we don't even need "mood music" (instrumentals).