Saturday, April 17, 2010

True Worship (Sunday homily)

The second reading, from the Book of Revelation,
shows us the saints in heaven, worshipping.
Actually, if you go through the entire Book of Revelation,
you’ll see a series of scenes: some on earth, then some in heaven.
On earth you see conflict, persecution and distress.

But what you see in heaven is always the same:
the angels and the saints, peacefully, and very intensely,
worshipping the Lamb of God.

Is worship an afterthought? Or is it the center of our lives?
God is letting us know that you and I, and the whole human race,
can only find our true selves, and true justice, true happiness,
with true worship of God.

So for example, people who say they don’t have time to worship God,
Or they can “worship God in their own way”—
Can end up worshipping Money or Getting Ahead;
Or they worship a God who coincidentally
agrees with all their own ideas!

In short, there is always the danger
that our focus will shift, gradually,
from being centered on God, to being about ourselves.

I’ll begin with myself. One of the grave temptations
many priests experience
is to inject too much of ourselves into Mass.

If I were a shy, retiring sort of person—hah!—
maybe that wouldn’t be an issue.
But for me, and for many priests, it is a constant temptation:
add a comment or a joke or an explanation here…
and here…and here…

Now, there’s a place for some of that.
But it’s like red pepper: a little can go a long way;
and those who like it, always put in way too much!

A lot of folks want the priest to do that.
Mass is “boring,” we like it when Father livens it up.
What’s wrong with that?

The Mass is not about me.
My purpose is to be as transparent as possible—
which, given how thick I am, is no easy miracle for God!

It’s kind of a paradox.
Worship is “for us”—in the sense that it benefits us;
God doesn’t need it.
Yet in order for worship to be “good for us”—
it cannot be about us—
we have to fight every temptation to make it us-centered.

And if I can tell you how tempting that is for me,
isn’t that true for all of us?

So we often ask, what should we do to draw people in?
What makes us feel good when we walk out of church?
What do folks like?

I’m not saying those aren’t fair questions;
but you see the danger?

The Mass is what Revelation describes:
God’s people intensely centering their worship
on the Lamb of God;
Jesus who is both Priest and the Lamb slain,
offering himself to wash away our sins
and to plead for us to the Father.

We often say, “Mass is a celebration.”
Again, that’s true to a point.
But we can’t celebrate our being saved,
without also facing the fact of our being lost—and needing it.

In Revelation, we see our future—we are saved!
But we come to Mass in our present,
in a world where we face pressure to keep our Faith to ourselves;
where like Peter, will both want to serve him,
but are tempted to deny him.
Every day we face 100 choices: His way—or my own?

In this world, we take part in the Mass
needing Christ to pour his grace down on us and on the world.
That’s why our focus, our everything, is on the Lamb of God.

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