Last Sunday's homily is available
-This Sunday's Scriptures can be found at www.usccb.org/readings
-check out this weeks LinC letter at www.parishLinCLetter.blogspot.com
-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!