When pastors work on their sermons during the week,
we all have subjects we think about addressing…
only to lose our nerve by Sunday.
Well, I’m only here for a few more weeks,
so I thought, what the heck,
I can say what I want!
Seriously though, as the Gospel says,
our Lord isn’t a hired man
whose main concern is getting paid.
His concern is the flock.
I’m not the Lord—but I’m not a hired man either.
So…today I’m going to touch on etiquette in church.
Here’s the thing: while I’m making my points,
you’re not allowed to poke anyone, or give anyone a look.
And no throat-clearing.
To start off, I considered talking about
when we show up for Mass—
except I think we do a pretty good job of that.
And I recognize what a challenge this can be if you have children.
So parents, I want you to know:
when I see you hurrying in, children in tow,
that is a good example to us all.
But let’s talk about the end of Mass.
We all have emergencies and tight schedules;
but when after communion,
whole rows have emptied out?
That’s quite a coincidence!
Second item: distractions during Mass.
Once again, I’m not going to say what you may think.
Some of us can give a look of death when a baby fusses or cries.
But babies can’t really help that.
Please keep bringing your children to Mass!
By the way, it’s not true we don’t have a cry-room;
we actually have two of them!
See those confessionals?
They’re not used during Mass; the walls are carpeted;
if you want to sit in there, feel free.
While parents can’t easily turn off a baby,
we can turn off our cell phones.
If you don’t know how, ask your kids.
And there is no excuse for texting or gaming during Mass.
Item 3: how we dress. What I would suggest is not
that anyone has to wear fancy clothes;
but that doing the bare minimum is too little.
Now—I know what the rebuttal is. “Just be glad they are there.” And we are glad.
But let me ask this question.
Suppose I came up to you and I said,
“I have great expectations of everyone else…but not you.”
We aren’t strangers who pass in the night here;
as Saint John said in the second reading, we’re born into a family; we belong to each other;
so, yes, we have expectations of each other.
The other comment is, “God doesn’t care what we wear.”
And that is true.
But then, God created us naked….
OK, let’s talk about the bathrooms…
We all know some percentage of visits to the bathroom,
during Mass, is not about need;
it’s about being bored.
Parents, please help with this.
Another item: cleaning up around us.
Sometimes the pews look pretty ragged after Mass.
If you bring a bulletin to your pew,
please don’t stuff it in the pocket.
Please put books back where they were
One more item: being a good host.
When we invite or bring friends here
who aren’t Catholic,
it’s our job to make them feel at home.
So I’d ask that we be sure to show folks the red booklets,
the song books,
and let folks know what to do.
And that especially includes explaining
what to do at communion time.
The reason there’s confusion is
because many of our fellow Christians have other practices.
When you think about it,
there’s no reason to assume when folks come to our church,
they know what holy water is; or how to genuflect;
or whether they can sing along with us.
And there’s nothing rude about
explaining that while other churches
have their ways
our teaching is that receiving communion
we are actual, formal members of the Catholic Church.
Some people just don’t know that;
and they won’t know it, if you and I don’t explain it.
All this becomes a great way for us
to learn about other people’s faith;
and to share our faith with people.
Now, what sometimes happens is that
when we try to explain our Faith,
we realize we don’t know our Faith as well as we wish.
But if we push ourselves a little,
we’ll actually learn our faith a lot better.
A lot of the time, we want to be in our own little zone.
I go into a coffee shop, I want to sit by myself—leave me alone!
When we go to the bank or store, we’re in and out.
But that’s not what happens at Mass.
As the Eucharistic Prayer says,
God has summoned us here before him.
Christ makes his death and resurrection real to us
through a real sacrifice—
but not a bloody one—on this altar.
We aren’t here as spectators.
We’re here for two reasons:
we need to be here for our salvation;
we need his Blood in order to be saved.
And we’re here to join with the priest
in offering this sacrifice for the salvation of others.
Our family, our community and our world needs us to be here.
For me, as a priest, to offer this sacrifice,
is a privilege beyond price.
And that’s true for you as well.