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Get into the ring! How this works...

This is easy! Each week on Thursday I post my homily main focus for preaching this coming Sunday. What I am hoping for is a reaction from people in the pews. Does my "focus" connect with your daily life, faith, and experience? Or not? Either affirm the direction I am going in (by giving me an example from your life) or challenge me, ask for clarification! Questions are the best! Reaction rather than reflection is what I'm looking for here. Don't be afraid, get in the ring. Ole!

Friday, August 28, 2015

August 30 Homily Prep

Last Sunday's homily is available
-This Sunday's Scriptures can be found at
-check out this weeks LinC letter at
-I will be celebrating mass this weekend at 4:00pm on Saturday, 9:30 AM and 6:00PM on Sunday


 A fraternity brother of mine (who's wedding I celebrated 28 years ago) has a daughter who is about to be married this fall. She of course is insisting upon a beach wedding, in Florida, where none of her family or friends reside and all the guests have been informed that the proper dress for this event is "resort evening attire".   In a conversation with her father, I discovered that he is breaking the dress code and is going to wear a suit. He said to me "Eddie, I am not walking my daughter  down the aisle( which of course made us both laugh at the mention of "an aisle") in a pair of khaki pants and a Tommy Bahama shirt".  What a curmudgeon, eh?

Etiquette - the collection of external behaviors that we believe to be socially appropriate and polite.    Etiquette-a thing of the past. As my beach wedding story reminds us, there is not much etiquette required of us in our self-referential society. The code of conduct is really just whatever "I am comfortable with".   The notion that you would hold the door for a woman, take your hat off inside the house, stand when you are introduced to an elder,  don't put your elbows on the table, don't talk with your mouth full, or wear a proper suit of clothes for your daughter's wedding - are all things of "social dinosaurs".

 We get the word "etiquette" from the French and it literally means ticket or label. We get its connection to our social behavior from the application of a label on the outside of the box or package that reveals the contents.   By definition then the proper etiquette is the external indicators that one is a properly trained member of society.

 The loss of etiquette and its demands upon our social behavior is a sign of our  relativism and self esteem society which has forgotten about our membership in a group or our accountability  to the standards of anyone other than our  liberated, self-satisfied, individual, quirky egos.

 The reason we have lost this sense of social etiquette is at the heart of the sayings of Jesus today in Marks Gospel.  Pharisees (a class of Rabbi in Judaism at the time of Jesus)  are accused by Jesus as observing the externals of the law but having no internal devotion to the law which is of course love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself.

The term Pharisee has become synonymous with what we would call Phonies - those people who know how to behave in social settings and present themselves in appropriate ways in public but have no quality of character on the inside.

 This concern about etiquette, phonies  and Pharisaism  is recognized in our current day in the separation of the notions of religion and spirituality.  The pharisaical practice of religion by many people (observing many things of church etiquette) without proper personal faith in their hearts has caused people to distrust the etiquette religion if you will and search exclusively for spirituality.

So we end up with the nondenominational church that gathers in a  downtown Cleveland comedy club on Sunday mornings and advertises themselves as the place where you can wear your sweats, bring your coffee, and be able to tell  your mother that you "went to church". No ritual, no ordained ministry, no celebration of the Eucharist, no rules, no laws, no sacred space, - but you went to church and nurtured your spirituality.

We have to avoid the pitfall of the pharisees in the sense that we externally manifest religious appropriateness  while having no real love of God or neighbor in our hearts.  The challenge, however, is to avoid the other extreme: having no external or social expressions of the sincere love of God and neighbor in our hearts. What they call today, spiritual but not religious.

What the Lord is calling us to is an authentic and deep faith in our hearts that clings to the hand of God and is intimate with God in the depths of one's person ( what we might call around here a deepening communion with God who is love) and a beautiful, kind, self-sacrificing human and social expression of that faith within and among the life of the church.  What we call a widening of the communion  of the faithful in the church.

 For example  knowing ourselves to be a communion of the faithful related to one another in faith, hope and love in the Church would be properly manifest in the liturgical etiquette of standing and singing until all the members have received holy Communion.  So the external, religious, behavior matches the internal and intimate reality of our relationship to God in the church.

Have we lost something? Maybe we are dinosaurs!


Stay Put said...

This homily reflection is particularly relatable for me. I remember being a little girl (in the 1960's) and my big sister (9 years older - so she was an older teenager at this point) telling me how much she disliked going to church. She told me that she found people to be so hypocritical. They dressed up, competing with one another for who could look the best, and weren't even necessarily nice to one another. To this day she no longer claims to be Catholic and is active in a small, non-denominational church.

I remember being sad at her accusations - even though I was a child - and the Matador's reflection reminds me of why. There are a couple of issues that come up from that experience, which his reflection helps me to consider.

I do believe that there is a segment of the population who choose to be casual in their appearance at church. As my sister would suggest, rather than giving the impression of 'putting on airs', they 'dress down' with the intention of appearing accessible. But as the Matador implies, it strikes me that that kind of reaction is accentuating the wrong part of the issue. Rather than downgrade THAT side of the equation, wouldn't the preferred approach be to elevate the OTHER side of the equation? In other words, rather than devaluing the manner of grooming, one could instead work at increasing the love, kindness, and mercy in one's heart.

The other point in the story of my sister is that her choice strikes me as sad because rather than sticking with it (the Catholic Church), after experiencing 'conflict' within her heart she chose to leave the community. This, too, is a sign of our times. We see it most clearly in marriages. Today's cultural norms have convinced us that when things become challenging, hurtful, disagreeable - well then, all we have to do is to leave the situation and find new happiness. And if that becomes challenging one day, we can leave again. I am thinking we need to find ways to work through conflict, to learn to 'stay put', which will likely require sacrifice, forgiveness, and hope.

The Matador’s conclusion, “a beautiful, kind, self-sacrificing human and social expression of faith within and among the life of the church”, offers an articulate description to consider as we travel our journey of lifelong conversion and work hard at drawing in our loved ones in to join us.

Anonymous said...

How many people come to church as if they are going to a party as opposed to a sign of commitment? Confirmation dress code by some parents appeared to be the same as if "going clubbing". People do not consider the outward sign or what others think because society has taught that Only how one feels about self is important so God, others etc. are irrelevant. We have subjugated the Lord to our own set of rules instead of His truth. As a Catholic believer I mus adhere to a much higher calling than the world. I am a light in increasing darkness.

The Matador said...

My preaching of this Homily produced an incredible reaction. It's probably because I chose to be critical of the churches rules about outdoor weddings. What do you think about my decision to ask the bishop for permission to do outdoor weddings?

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful, graceful true expression of faith Father.

"What the Lord is calling us to is an authentic and deep faith in our hearts that clings to the hand of God and is intimate with God in the depths of one's person ( what we might call around here a deepening communion with God who is love) and a beautiful, kind, self-sacrificing human and social expression of that faith within and among the life of the church. What we call a widening of the communion of the faithful in the church."

As far as the outdoor weddings, I think the Church's reasoning is very well put. "the church is trying to emphasize the seriousness and sacredness of the commitment by requiring that the sacrament be celebrated in that place where the church community normally gathers. "Parks, gardens, and homes are not "dignified" enough for the sacrament of Marriage."

Still Thinking said...

A particular line from your homily helped me as I thought about your question regarding marriages outside the church building - "We have made the rule more important than the truth." I think this is exactly the kind of thinking in which Pope Francis is challenging us to engage ourselves.

While I understand the uniqueness of the church building as sacred space, I also think there is much to be said for the sanctity found in all things, in all places. I believe in the statement that "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst." I also believe, as the Catholic Church teaches, that in a Catholic wedding ceremony, the bride and groom are the ministers of the sacrament, with the priest (or deacon) serving as the necessary and official witness of the Church.

With those things being considered, I am challenged to wonder by this discussion if we (the Catholic Church) should be seeing the request on the part of engaged couples to marry outside the church building, as a time in their lives when we "meet them where they are." It seems to me that this continues to be the real call of the new evangelization. Rather than sticking to an existing rule, should we instead be seeing this as a doorway through which a number of people could enter? If we begin to consider that as an option, then it seems to me that other things become very important, if a wedding is held outside the doors of a church. For instance:
1. Should anything additional be done in the marriage preparation to help the couple's awareness of the sanctity of mariage?
2. Should anything be added to the ceremony, to heighten the awareness of the event as a sacred one?
3. Should there be an invitation to the newly married couple, following the date of the ceremony, at which their marriage is recognized in their parish church at a Sunday Mass - recognizing them among the community as a married couple?

The question posed by the Matador strikes me as good food for thought - and the kind of stuff we need to challenge ourselves as we try to reach out to others to share with them the thirst God has for their presence and their participation.