Sunday, April 30, 2006

Making Jesus Known in the Breaking of the Bread (Sunday homily)

Today we mark the end
of our religious education program
until the fall.

It’s an opportunity to thank our catechists,
who give a lot time, and heart,
to help our young people deepen their faith.

In the first reading,
St. Peter says to the crowd,
you didn’t realize who Jesus is—
so Peter makes Jesus known to them.

That’s the purpose
of our religious education program.

But I must tell you that what we attempt to do,
about an hour a week,
for 30-35 weeks a year, is just not enough!

I trust you understand that, parents.
But if any parent expects
this to carry the weight
of your child’s religious education,
I must tell you—it doesn’t! It won’t!

During the week,
our children learn
arithmetic, science, history,
and they get several hours’ instruction
in these subjects, every week!
We don’t come anywhere close
to that on Sunday morning!

Our Sunday morning program presupposes
parents are providing the "meat"
of that religious instruction at home.

Now, maybe we wonder if our kids
need as much religious instruction,
as with vocabulary
or mathematics, or reading.

Look at the world around us.
Does it look like an easy place to navigate,
in terms of moral choices?

I went to a bookstore Monday;
you’ve seen, or heard about,
what’s out there:
books that claim
Jesus and Mary Magdalene hooked up,
that Jesus didn’t really die on the Cross,
or if he did, he wasn’t resurrected;
Judas wasn’t a villain,
the whole thing was made up.

And you know what?
A lot of our Catholics
don’t know how to respond!

When folks from other religions come knocking,
do you feel confident in responding?

And if we can’t explain why we believe,
how can we ever do as Christ commanded,
in today’s Gospel,
to lead others to salvation?

So, yes, religious instruction is important;
and what the parish provides
is not nearly enough.

Down the road,
we’ll talk further about this:
I welcome any thoughts you may have.

In the Gospel,
the disciples recognized Jesus
"in the breaking of the bread"—
This was on that first, Easter Sunday:
Luke, who wrote this Gospel,
is teaching us about the importance
of gathering, every Sunday, at Mass;
where we have the same encounter
with the Risen Lord.

And, we’re doing that right now!
I want to encourage and thank you
for bringing your children to Mass.

I know when they’re infants,
they don’t always do well at Mass—
as one parent put it, they have "meltdowns"!

Sometimes, other sets of eyes
turn like laser beams!

But let me say this to anyone
who is distracted:
If you’re distracted at Mass,
it’s not the baby’s fault—
it’s not the parent’s fault.
It’s your fault!

We do our best;
yes, it’s considerate
to turn our phones to silent;
but we can’t turn off babies!

But, if you want Mass without these things?
Don’t come!
Only when this church is empty
of people will that happen!

So, instead, here’s some practical advice.
You’re at Mass, and there’s a noise;
Don’t look: don’t think about it;
just go right back to praying.
I guarantee you’ll forget about it.

You know what the true distraction is?
Not what happens over there,
but here, in our heads!
It’s what we start thinking right afterward.

So, parents, don’t hold back
from bringing the little ones.

If you feel you can’t do both—Mass, and CCD?
Then skip CCD and bring them here!

They don’t have to get it here—
with their heads;
they will get it in their hearts.

When your children were newborns,
did you talk to them? Or, did you wait
until they would understand the words?
I’m sure you didn’t wait!

They "get" it before they "get" it.

Your children are never "too young"
to be with you;
how can they be "too young"
to be with Jesus at Mass?

An infant in her father’s arms
feels the heartbeat, hears a familiar voice,
singing or speaking:
that child connects, apart from intellect.

And all of us are no more than infants
in God’s arms, in our understanding
of the reality that happens at Mass!

See, our identity as Christians:
it’s more than as individuals
who believe something about Christ:
we are a family.

And Sunday Mass
is when the family comes together—
the whole family.
And Jesus is made known to us
in the breaking of the Bread.

11 comments:

Mark Anthony said...

YES, YES, YES!

Of course it is polite to remove a screaming baby to the back of church, but only as a temporary step. The Eucharist is a "family event". Children, with all of their fidgeting, have as much right and need to be there as adults. The Faith is absorbed by experience, not by learning. We are not Gnostics for a reason.

So, no special kids' masses on Sundays; no taking the children out at the Liturgy of the Word (which always seems like a creepy rendition of the Pied Piper story to me); no nasty looks at a parent struggling to pay attention, quiet a child and not make eye contact with the "brethen" staring them down.

If you come to church expecting not to be bothered by other people, you've come to the wrong place.

Jackie said...

Dear. Fr. Martin,

I absolutely agree - children should always come to Mass - stay for the WHOLE thing and be taught how to behave (while you didn't address this last aspect - I'm sure you assumed this.) Exactly correct - Mark Anthony!!!

My son will be 18 in a month - from his birth he was brought to Mass. When he cried or got fidgity - we stood in the back or took a little 'break' in the vestibule (we have lived in a number of places). From the time he was 2 ish - we sat in the front row so he could see what was going on, he looked at or read 'Jesus' books during the readings and homily until he got older. From 3 or 4 - he could say the words of Consecration and do the correct actions - which were encouraged at home - just like playing doctor. In middle school to junior high, he brought his Bible to Mass, looked up the readings and read along - often the homilies were over his head - so he read the gospels or OT stories. (Hence, by 16 he could say his favorite Gospel was Matthew.)

Mass is for the family - the whole family - and we need to love and welcome the WHOLE family to the MOST important event we do together. Participating in the worship of our God and Creator throught the highest act of Love by the Son that has ever taken place. And we get to be there. Who wouldn't want kids there?

I look forward to the homily where you talk about being prepared to explain what we believe, how parents are, by definition of our vocation, the first and primary educators of our children - especially of the faith, and the topic of adult education.

Thanks for the homily and God Bless

Father Martin Fox said...

Jackie:

Actually, in my 7 am homily, I did talk more about adult education, and mentioned several things we are doing for high school and adults, and invited folks to tell me what would interest them. I made the point that what sometimes happens is we schedule something, and people don't come!

As mentioned here, down the road, I want to consider some ways to modify, and perhaps fortify, our religious education program. My CRE and I have talked about some things...

K said...

Thank you, Father for a wonderful homily. I've posted it on my blog as well.

CLOW (as it is referred to in my parish) is one of those "things" that I have never felt very comfortable with. My children attend Mass with my husband and I and can even understand the readings and the homilies. I do try to read the readings a few days before Mass to the children and discuss them, and then we compare our discussions with the homily that is given that day. A great way to learn scripture, the catechism, and open the door for questions about the faith.

Barb, sfo said...

Thank you!
It was so helpful to my family with our youngest, loudest child, to hear from other parishioners that they were happy to see us all in church and not to worry about baby noise, because he belongs there too. Then they'd share their own "war stories" to make us feel better. Now that he is older, they still remember what he was like as a baby and they still remember that we always brought him to church. It was because of them that we did it less self-consciously.

Anonymous said...

Our church recently instituted children's word - it is like a mass send off to daycare so parents don't have to bother teaching good behavior. Mass should be for the family and I will gladly ignore the stares and keep my little ones with me - sometimes they get wiggly but how will they ever learn what is important when we dumb down the scripture and remove them from the experience?!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father! I am a homeschooling mom and if I had a blog I would link to you too! God Bless!

Anonymous said...

If I had little ones in church now I would miss the bell at consecration. You could keep the little ones quiet to listen for the bell at that important time.

Father Martin Fox said...

Anonymous:

Yes, I decided to bring back the bells here, for a related reason -- it's something that we can connect to, apart from an intellectual apprehension.

This, I believe, is part of the genius of Catholic practice, in this case, the Mass: we have sights, sounds, smells, touch, taste -- everything is used, as it were, to convey meaning.

There's nothing terribly important about the bells -- they aren't required and have no real necessity -- but they are appealing (pardon the pun), I think they add to the Mass, the servers like them (although they're the hardest thing the servers do, other than incense), and they leave a vivid impression in the imagination.

When we reduce the Mass to intellectual/rational components, we impoverish it, and fail to use all the means available to draw people to faith and transformation through the Mystery of Christ.

Deep Furrows said...

I agree with everything said here, but would add just one thing. There ain't much crying at Masses between 7 and 8am.

Christine said...

Father, I just got around to reading this, and I am so happy to see it! I linked to it right away at my own blog. I have never used the nursery at any parish I've been a part of, and made sure to sit right up front at Mass. (Who wants to look at everyone's rear ends for an hour?) My girls are very well-behaved in Mass, and they know what's going on. My four year old practically has the Creed memorized already, and they know the proper postures, as well.

Incidentally, my children are also apologists in the making what with our Catholic homeschool curriculum! They are learning to defend the Faith in ways that I wasn't able to at their ages (let alone later on!).

God bless you,
Christine