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Friday, January 20, 2017

Bad Reading, Mets Baseball and Mass Appeal...

Somewhere during the priest's mind-numbing rendition of an unemployed third-rate actor reading the obituaries from a local newspaper, I started to wonder, "What is he doing? When is he going to stop reading and get on with his homily?"

Gotta find a spot for Jose Reyes... 
Then, my mind started drifting even further, "What are the Mets going to do with Jose Reyes if David Wright plays third, Asdrubal Cabrera plays short and Neil Walker plays second?  Then again, what are they going to do with Michael Conforto with Cespedes, Bruce, Lagares and Granderson in the same outfield? Did I forget to give my son his medication this morning?  No, I remembered."

The priest continued, "In the second reading, St. Paul writes...."  At that point, I realized he was not going to stop.  That was his homily!

The poor clergyman, probably in his late 50's, was obviously not comfortable speaking freely in English.  His pronunciation was not bad but he probably felt he was doing the parishioners a favor.  It failed miserably, at least to me.

It wasn't that his writing lacked substance, it was just that he was reading!  It had no life, no color, no anecdotes and nothing to make it relatable.  It was as dryly delivered as a Steven Wright comedy routine, sans the humor!

It's hard to remember the last time I felt that type of disconnect during a homily; probably, before my re-version to the faith over ten years ago, when I would spend way too many masses thinking about the Mets' lineup, what I was going to have for lunch or the crying baby in the back of the church. Why doesn't his mom shut him up, already! I'm trying to figure out the trade or recall options the Mets' have in their minor league system! 

We were on a field trip to St. Augustine with my son's 4th Grade class.  A few of us snuck away from the tour itinerary to catch the early Sunday morning Mass.

I love to visit different Catholic parishes when I travel.  It's mind-boggling to think that the same Mass celebrated at any given city is the same Mass that my wife and daughters would partake in at home that day, my sister-in-law and her family would experience in London or anywhere else around the globe.  It is truly what first century bishop, St. Ignatius of Antioch, meant when he referred to the Church as "Catholic," which means universal.

Learning about history and life...
I also like to teach my kids that no matter where we are, our obligation to God continues, even on vacation.  There's no vacation from God!

Anyhow, it was a beautiful and, apparently, affluent parish (their bulletin had fourteen full-color pages!) with a visibly active bilingual congregation, three priests, three deacons and almost 50 ministries (They were holding a ministries fair on the day of our visit), but their Spanish-speaking priest was celebrating the English Mass and it didn't translate well, pardon the pun.

While, I wouldn't say the homily was a total disaster, it did remind me of a conversation I had with my brother a few years ago.  He said that some priests were so uninspiring that it made him think twice about going to Mass sometimes.    

It's one of the reasons so many Protestant megachurches are filled to the brim; people looking for entertainment, fellowship and excitement.  They want to feel part of something but want to be attracted by charismatic preaching (many times that appeal to their taste in theology and philosophy of life!), lively music and vibrant social opportunities.

However, to me, as one of our parish priests put it recently, "Church is not about me and what I can get.  It's about Him and what I can give."  Let's face it, the least we can do is give God an hour a week of our time!

The Bread of  Life...
And, yet, we do receive more than we can ever imagine at Mass.  We receive the Eucharist; the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ; the same Christ who walked the earth two thousand years ago, performing miracles and dying for our sins; the same Christ who we call God and pray to; and the same Christ, and God of the Universe, who humbles Himself to feed his flock through the Bread of Life, otherwise known as "Daily Bread" we pray for in the Lord's Prayer.

Moreover, during the liturgy, we are actually drawn to the foot of the cross in first century Palestine to partake in the "once and for all" sacrifice of the Son to the Father.

As one of my favorite authors, Dr. Scott Hahn, writes in his book, The Lamb's Supper, the Mass is the where heaven and earth meet.  It is the closest we'll get to heaven this side of the grave.  It is where the entire Communion of Saints; those in heaven, including our loved ones, those on the way to heaven and those existing on the planet come together (in the Eucharist).

Hence, as I sat there in the pew that Sunday morning, being lulled by the arid reading, in a strange but all too familiar surrounding and thinking of Reyes' and Conforto's plights in the New York Mets' lineup, as I kept my son from laying his head on my lap, I regathered my thoughts and was able to focus on who and what I was there for...

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