Got into a little bit of a twitter tirade today. Probably should delete twitter as it is more often then not an occasion to sin or at least get my blood pressure up. But I criticized a priest who at Mass decided to have some sort of a “renunciation” of white privilege and a question and answer thing where the congregation was to say they were against racism, systemic or otherwise (kind of sounded like the Renewal of Baptismal Promises which can sometimes take the place of the creed at Mass)
A couple of things. First off – the Mass is not ours to edit, to change, to alter into some social justice rallying cry. The liturgy is a work of the Church that has been handed down from antiquity. When there are changes made to it or revision it’s done after lots of prayer, debate that usually takes years of back and forth over to make sure that we’re not altering the meaning of something nor deflecting from the work of the Mass, the work of the Church, the work of Christ that takes place at Mass.
And what is that work? Namely that Jesus Christ has come to conquer sin – all sin, all evil – and to heal us of the effects of sin, of evil. So whoever this priest was – as laudable as some might think that it is to speak out against a particular injustice in this rather dramatic demonstration – that’s a distraction on what the real focus should be. The focus is to be on our constant need for conversion and a more radical following of Jesus Christ.
Look at this Gospel passage. We see the power, the authority, the freedom found in the Love of Jesus Christ as he torments the evil spirits afflicting this man. Jesus commands it to be silent and to come out of the man – the demon has no choice but to obey.
Whether it’s racial strife, COVID, legalized abortion, the destruction of life in suicide – there’s no shortage of things that can make us feel like Evil is triumphing and on the march. That’s why we come to Mass and experience our supernatural faith in Jesus who wants to rid not just the world of evil but each and every one of us.
That whole renunciation of racism wasn’t really about the people in that congregation and their sinfulness but trying to make a political point and call attention to a societal issue that this priest wanted to focus on. There’s a time and place for that.
In the Mass, Jesus wants to encounter us, and lead us to deeper conversion. We’re meant to confront the dark parts of our hearts the sinful habits, the ways we harbor selfishness, the secrets we cling to out of shame. Those temptations we’ve succumbed to that are like demons that want nothing to do with Jesus’ life-giving power. Jesus rebukes that logic, though. He overthrows anything in us that diminishes our freedom. May we have the honesty and humility to desire to be rid of those things. May we have the courage to go to Jesus – especially in confession where Jesus rids us of those things that torment, diminish, make us unclean.