Saturday, November 15, 2014
A Little Religious Fervor...Okay, Actually a Lot of Religious Fervor.
I want to start off with one bold proclamation: WE ARE THE ONES WITH THE 5 TALENTS!!!!! This is so true on so many levels. We, as Catholics, have been given a deep richness of God's grace especially in the Sacraments. We are given the possibility of an extraordinarily intimate relationship with God, seen most concretely through the Eucharist. We are given the ongoing gift of the forgiveness of sins. We have a God who desperately loves us and wants to have us with Him for all eternity. We have the fellowship of believers stretching throughout time and space, all fellow pilgrims meant to help each other to that Kingdom. We have a massive body of teaching and instructions to help us discern what loving God and loving our neighbor looks like. We have a Gospel which urges us on to excellence and victory! We lack no access to a bountiful spiritual treasure trove.
Furthermore, to my American readers, we enjoy a wealth and freedom in this country that so very many in this world would desperately want to have. No one who goes to worship in this country need worry about arrest or death. Even our poor live better than so very many in this world. We have an embarrassment of riches. We have access to food, clean water, medical care, housing, and work that many in this world do not have. We live in a society that does give us the ability to better ourselves should we decide to do the hand work necessary to that end. The social safety nets we have in place are extensive.
So why is their such discontent in our society? Why are we losing our youth and young adults in such alarming numbers? Why are our worship services so often paeans to mediocrity and banal worship? Why do people get 'nothing out of' our Eucharistic celebrations, as is so often commented? Some will say it is because of entitlement (everything must please me), some will say it is because we do not appreciate or even acknowledge what we have, some will say it is because we have grown more inward as individuals. Some would say it is just a case of we have grown into spoiled rotten adolescents. Maybe it is a mix of all these things. What I believe though is that we have lost our fire and fervor.
Let me explain: Every Mass should be a resounding celebration of "I LOVE YOU GOD!!!" Voices resounding like peals of thunder should be facilitating this. However for this to happen we need to be living lives that scream "I LOVE YOU JESUS!!!", that act as a powerful witness. This cannot be synthesized nor faked. We can have all of the lively sounding music or solemn music we want. We can have all the happy clappy or all the silence we want. Mediocrity of faith will lead to mediocrity in worship. Do we really get what we have?! Do we? I can assure if we did, we would be those voices raised like the peals of thunder in praise of our God! EVERY MASS should be a loud and bold proclamation that we have the 5 talents!
But what do we experience? Mystery? Beauty? Wonder? Awe? Simply overwhelmed at whose presence we are coming into? If we understood even a minimal level that is what we should feel, perhaps we would be connecting with what is happening. But what do we experience? Banality, the commonplace, mediocrity, tepidness...nothing...a void? In the Book of Revelations, Jesus says to the Church of Laodicea through St. John, "How I wish you were hot or cold, but because you are lukewarm, I vomit you from my mouth!" Our celebration of the Eucharist is not to be an exercise in mediocrity! As I said before though, our worship will be a reflection of our spiritual lives. It is not about what we get out of Mass, it is about what we give!
I am not saying that we couldn't do better in Mass. I do tire of singing about ourselves in a Christianized narcissistic way. I deeply desire music directed primarily to the praise and worship of our God. I don't want to hear the same stuff I hear outside of Mass...I want to know right away that what we are here to do is radically different. I want mystery and awe! I want to hear from the music, the readings, and the homily a resounding 'I LOVE YOU LORD!'. I want worship to represent the acknowledgement that we indeed possess the richness of God's grace. Why? Because Mass is supposed to fire us up to engage in the mission of Jesus Christ...to invest the 5 talents in such a way so as to draw others to Christ Himself. No fervor in Church will translate into no engagement. This doesn't mean the blare of percussion instruments as much as it means the roar of thunder of our voices in praise of God. That roar is as powerful through chant as it is through more modern styles. It should not be an either/or wargame that so many parishes devolve into (like that isn't immediately perceptible). We have been around for the better part of two millenia...we should quit trying to act as if we either came into existence or ceased to exist 50 years ago!
Mass is the tip of the iceberg. Our lives as Catholics need to scream "I Love you Lord!"...not 'bah, sure, I think I like you, if you actually exist and all.' Pope Francis referred to pagan Catholics a few days ago. That's harsh but pretty accurate. Catholicism isn't a fraternal order to belong to...we aren't the Kiwanas with a lot of statuary. We are the caretakers of a radical faith meant to transform the world! We look at so many of the problems we face as a church. We want to blame the teachings. I say it is the timidity and lukewarmness! I say it is the ago old desire to have a god who doesn't challenge...a doddering doofus who will just rubber stamp our least efforts with heaven. Wake up people!! If in the parable the king grows infuriated with the one who hid his single talent...what will be the response to those who buried the 5?! We need to understand in the most powerful possible way: we worship a God who expects us to use wisely what He has given...not a god who desires nor rewards mediocrity and lukewarmness. There needs to be a restoration of that understanding...and that restoration will breath new life into our parishes, our families, and our world!