Monday, January 9, 2012

Bad Homilies

We've all been there at the mass where our heads were suddenly stunned into a religious stupor by something said after the Gospel.  You know what I speak of, not the long homily, not the goes everywhere homily, not the it's not a homily, it's a reminder that we're due for an annual appeal lecture, but the BAD homily. 

The BAD homily is not theologically unsound although that sometimes happens, the BAD homily leaves children puzzled and adults struggling.  The BAD homily gives mental cotton candy when there ought to be Beef Wellington.  

Everyone talks about BAD music and BAD music choices.  There are the Haugen Haters and the This Isn't Catholic American Idol, just sing the song critiques a plenty.  I will suffer bad singing, out of tune guitars and even poorly thought out synthesized accompaniment because of the sincerity of the hearts in there pitching.  I will wince and mentally chafe at someone singing Mary Did You Know because the answer is YES! But the homily is part of the meat of the mass, where we're forced to dig deeper into our lives and apply the gospel.  It is supposed to grip at our hearts and our minds.

So you might be wondering...what happened?

Yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany and we went to a late mass not at our home parish owing to the logistics of the day.  Squirmy baby syndrome had set in in earnest and I ferried one soon to be joined by a second to the cry room wherein a loudspeaker provided any adults who strained their ears with what was going on in the mass. My middle son came in as well for support. 

I thought I was hearing things as the priest described a mountain climber who had suffered a fall and was suspended on the side of a mountain and how he finally decided to pray and heard God say, "Let go." and he feared falling so he didn't but prayed again and God said, "Cut the rope."  He got out his knife but couldn't bring himself to do it and thus was found the next day frozen to death a few feet from a foothold where he could have safely weathered the night if he had followed God's instructions and cut the tether.  This was 1)obviously not true as how then would we know God spoke to him or that he refused to trust and 2) deeply annoying.  It bothered me so much I googled it this morning and the story is there on the internet.

This was the Feast of the Epiphany!  You want to talk about having Faith? The Kings left their homes. They left their families.  They followed a star.  They showed up at a stable.  They saw a baby with two peasants, a carpenter and his young wife, in a stable.  With animals and straw and all of that!  And they knew that this was a new King. That this was The King.  They gave their treasures.   My brain exploded when my son said, "I don't think God would do this, it makes Him seem rather mean."   What am I supposed to do? I told him at the time, he was probably right and how could it be true if we know about it unless the poor guy suspended on the rope took the time to write it all down before he died.  (It's not noted so I'm guessing no).  At that moment I felt like the opportunity to plant seeds had been squandered in a sense for this mass.  

And then the final blessing came and asked that we use charity.  So I'm there struggling mentally, deciding not to ask about it in the reception line, to just get going and talk later to my husband and older children. They all agree it puzzled them, but no one is as bothered as me.  I'm obviously still bothered.  So I had to ask, Why?

Everyone screws up. I get it and I'm willing to give a mulligan to the occasional misfire off day.  But the problem with bad homilies is that's what we remember from the mass.  We do not remember staying steeped in the Eucharist or how our daughter sang the First Noel full throated, or how our youngest son said the Alleluia.  What sticks, what stays,what gnaws is "Cut the rope." a macabre story easily found from a Non Catholic Internet site is being substituted for reflections on the Feast of the Epiphany.  I want to let it go but then part of me sets her teeth and says, this is a parish full of growing souls and I don't want them becoming disenchanted, uninvested in the star because the star has been made out into something far less interesting. 

What to do?  Beg any priest considering an assist from Google for homily preparation to vet the sources for their Catholicism and avail themselves of the 2000+ years of writings from the saints and the martyrs and holy men and women who have come before, instead of tagging leap of faith and running with the first story of 1,070,000 results that shows up? Talk to the priest himself?  Forget it? I'm still uncertain I'm being charitable even by discussing it.  Rant rant rant! Right Right Right. Rant some more.  My brain goes on and I'm still bothered.  I'm still not letting go.   And then God says...BINGO!  Sherry....cut the rope. 

Yes. I know. 
That's how God works.   Some of us (me) get to the stable a bit later than others. 

1 comment:

SherryTex said...

Fr. Z responds.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!