Here is my homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 21, 2009 – the readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/062109.shtml – Thanks as always for reading and your feedback! Fr Jim
The other day I was on “The Catholic Guy Show” on Sirius Satellite Radio and we asked a question on air “What drives you crazy at Mass?” People were invited to call in to give us their complaints. In the close to two years I’ve been going on this show, I don’t think we’ve ever had that many phone calls. The phone lines were jam packed for over an hour and a half, the host got a flood of emails, so much so, that he continued the topic the next day for another hour. One of the amazing thing was with all of these calls and emails, I didn’t hear one “repeat” – every caller had their own issue, their own pet peave – and everyone, from the Priest, to the music people, to the lectors, to the people sitting to the right, left front or behind in the pews got critiqued.
It was really funny, as people called with stuff I hadn’t even thought about – for example one lady called and said “I can’t stand it when someone’s cell phone goes off, and then the person is flustered and embarrassed, so they jump on the phone and hit the button that silences the ringer, but they don’t realize the cell phone is still on, so when the person is finished leaving a voice mail, 20 seconds later we have to hear that loud voice mail ringtone go off…” the woman continued “now not only am I distracted and aggravated, I’m wondering who called this person and what did they have to tell them.” Another guy complained “this just happened to me yesterday – this little kid is sitting in front of me at Mass, and he turns around and stares at me, so what am I supposed to do with that? I try to ignore him, but he’s like got a staring contest going on and I don’t want to lose, but I don’t want to pay attention to him…” They were pretty funny.
One person said “I just can’t stand it when all of us, priests, people are just so dull in our responses. We almost are sighing through the Mass – could we be more bored as we say “The Lord be with you” “And Also with You” “Lift up your hearts…*Sigh* We lift them up to the Lord….” Or when we recite the Holy Holy Holy – here we are joining the song of the angels praising and worshiping God – and we recite it very robotic, mechanical… maybe we even try to speed it up to shave a few minutes off of Mass.
Like I said, it was an interesting segment (to say the least) as people called with one observation after another – and more than a couple seemed familiar on some level. But I have to admit that the part about how we pray kind of stuck with me, and it came back to me as I was reading this Gospel today.
As Catholics – there’s a beauty to our Mass that we don’t simply do whatever we want or create our own liturgy. We don’t come and decide one week “let’s just have a Gospel reading, skip those other ones – who cares about Job – that’s not an easy story to tackle, so let’s just skip it and get to a nice Jesus Gospel story, maybe add some poems or something at the beginning or some pop song that the kids like.” We participate in a liturgy that unites us with our brothers and sisters throughout the entire world as well as our ancestors in a liturgy that Jesus began and the apostles handed down to us. That’s a real gift we have. But there’s a challenge there that because it’s so familiar, because there’s a set pattern, we can be almost numb to it and not really think about what we’re doing.
Now some might be thinking “here it comes, one of those homilies on our behaviors at Mass. That’s not really my aim, in the traditional “Uh oh, Father Grumpy is going to tell us we better shape up.” I know for myself how often I can slip into the routine and not really think about what it is I’m hearing, I’m responding to, I’m praying.
And that’s what I think the Gospel is trying to challenge us with today. What is it that we believe – We believe that God is speaking to us in these readings. That this Liturgy of the Word contains truths that our God wants us to hear and apply to our lives today. We believe that in the Eucharist, when we receive communion, that we are given Jesus’ body and blood… God couldn’t be more present more close to us. He continues to reach out to us.
Yet, at the same time, so often many of us has some cares, some fears, some things that we are troubled about and we wonder “Does Jesus really care?” “Does God listen to my prayers” “I go to Mass, why do bad things happen to me or to my family or to my loved ones…”
If we go back to that gospel reading – the disciples are basically in the same position. Here they are physically in the boat with Jesus. They floating out and this violent storm comes – waves are crashing – it’s FILLING UP WITH WATER – and the disciples finally wake Jesus up and say “DON’T YOU CARE?” Don’t you care about the storm? Don’t you care we’re going to die!!” And with a confident voice, Jesus speaks, and nature obeys. Three words from Jesus “Quiet be still” and the wind ceases, there’s great calm – there’s great peace.
Jesus DID care. Jesus hadn’t left them. The problem was, The disciples hadn’t gone to him. They didn’t trust him. They didn’t expect much from him – they let him sleep as they continued to worry, continued to watch their boat fill up, continued to prepare for (and expect) the worst to happen. Just because they were in his presence, they expected some divine bubble to shield them from the storms – rather then going to Him and realizing in the midst of this violent storm, Jesus was there – and if they truly spoke to Him, let Him in on their fears, ask Him to help calm the storms that had distracted them from his presence (rather than just expecting Him to do it for them) they would have found there was nothing to be terrified about and that their faith was stronger than a some nor-easter
In some ways, I think that’s what happens to us. As we come to Mass, and allow ourselves to be distracted by routines or pet peeves or other nuisances – rather than focusing that Jesus is here with us. He wants us to trust him that He does care for us. He does have the power to quiet the storms in our lives. If we really were attentive to His voice, His presence not just in all the aspects of Mass, but in all the aspects of our lives, we might be surprised at how faith in Him does have the power to quiet the waves, winds and storms that terrify us.
So, in the end, we need to stop listening to that ring-tone, stop trying to win that staring contest, stop reading that teenager’s T-shirt in the pew in front of us – and remember who truly brought us all here in the first place, and more importantly – who alone can truly bring peace into our lives.