Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Casualness in the church

Sunday, June 29th (at the Novus Ordo Mass).
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, apostles - Solemnity. 2014 - Year A

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Paul and Saint Peter.

As you know, both of them died as martyrs for preaching the truth to the people.

Martyrdom of St. Peter

Unfortunately, many people get upset when they are told the truth, and very often their pride even makes them close their eyes to the truth. That’s why they rejected what St. Peter and St. Paul would tell them. But St. Peter and St. Paul knew that they couldn’t be quiet, that God wanted them to preach the truth to the people no matter what. And so they did, and for this, they were killed. Both had great faith, and they showed with their lives, and with their deaths, that they had great faith, and that they had a great love for Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The question now is do we show also that we have great faith, that we truly love Our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we show Him our love with our behavior?

Some people will say: Well, I go to church. Isn’t that proof enough of my faith and my love for God? Isn’t that enough to be saved?  

And to that I would say: Well, let’s see what Jesus says in the Gospel. Once, someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’  (St. Luke, 13)

This is Jesus Christ speaking. And He is very clear. So no one can say: my being here in church is proof enough of my faith and of my love to God. That would be like saying: we ate and drank with you… you taught us many things… we were there with you…

All this is useless unless we have a true love for Him and a great Faith in Him, and this love and this Faith, when they are true, they show in our behavior, not just in our going to Mass every week, but in everything that we do.

If our love is true and our faith is true, then we will show this in our lives as St. Peter and St. Paul showed it in their lives.

And today I want to speak to you about one way in which very often we show not our love and not our faith in Jesus Christ, but just the opposite; a way in which many people sometimes show that they don’t care about Him, that they don’t really respect Him as much as He deserves, that they don’t really consider Him as important as He is. The way in which sometimes we show Him all this, which is so wrong, is by our casualness when it comes to the most sacred time, the most sacred event we witness during the whole week, which is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in the most holy of places, which is right here in church in the Presence of Jesus Christ, who is present in the Blessed Sacrament.

People’s casualness shows many things: it shows a lack of respect, a lack of reverence, a poor understanding of what we are doing here at the Mass, which is taking part in the Most Holy Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross… our casualness shows a lack of love, and it also shows a lack of faith…

The way people dress for Mass has been getting worse and worse over the years, more and more casual, and now it seems that it has reached catastrophic proportions, and this is so sad and so wrong.

Why do people dress up for weddings, funerals and even for their daily jobs sometimes? They dress up to honor those whom they love or those whom they serve.

True love doesn't make honor and respect unnecessary, it fosters it. Most married couples know that when familiarity and comfort in a marriage replace honor and respect, only trouble follows. We all know that too much familiarity breeds contempt.

In the liturgy, here in church, here at Mass, casualness breeds contempt too.

Many of you know that many years ago, before the cultural revolutions of the 1960s, people would always wear what they called their ‘Sunday best’ for church. They would wear the best clothes they had for Mass, and they would always go to Mass, because they truly believed that it was necessary and important to go to Mass and that it is our obligation, every week.

They would also acknowledge the sacredness of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, they would acknowledge the sacredness of the Blessed Sacrament by kneeling at the time of receiving Communion. There was respect, and reverence, and this really caused an impression on people, especially children, and they would learn the importance and the sacredness of the Mass, of going to church, of the Eucharist…. their faith in the Real Presence of God, the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist was greatly strengthened…

But then, as so many people turned their backs to God and the world became more casual about everything, including morality, casualness crept into the church too. And this casualness brought contempt. People forgot about wearing their Sunday best because the Mass wasn’t that important anymore.

In the 1970s people started receiving Communion in the hand while standing, and the Faith in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ was greatly diminished and lost… Even the way of receiving Communion became as casual as it can be… the kneeling was lost and together with it the reverence and the respect were lost in most cases… people just forgot that at Communion they were receiving God and receiving Communion just became something else, something very casual, just like receiving a cookie from the priest…

Casualness crept into the church,  and many people just left the church. Many millions of people left the church and quit going to Mass. That’s why nowadays so many churches are closed down every year. And that’s why I hear all the time people complaining because their children don’t go to Mass anymore. Of course not… they were raised in all this casualness that takes away all the reverence from the Mass and doesn’t let people experience the sacredness of the Mass.

When we treat something with casualness and contempt, it is just simply impossible for us to hold this something as worthy of our time, as worthy of our devotion and our love.

If we try to worship God with casualness, very soon we will think that this God doesn’t really deserve all that much attention. This is why most young people just don’t want to go to Mass… what for? What is there that they cannot find somewhere else? The sacred was expelled from the church and it was replaced by casualness, and the fruit of this was that people didn’t see the need of going to church anymore, because casualness can be found everywhere.

Some people say that it is OK to be casual and dress in a casual way for Mass, and they say ‘comfort is a good thing and we like to be comfortable.’

And to that I would say: Yes, that is true but not at the expense of love and reverence.

Comfort is for the self, love is for the other. We must make a choice.

If we dress up, it is because we want to please God. If it is a sacrifice to dress up, then so be it, that makes it even better because we are supposed to make sacrifices out of love for Jesus Christ, just like He sacrificed Himself on the Cross for us.

Unfortunately, for many people it is more important to please themselves. We live in a narcissistic culture.  

Some people say God cares more about the internals and not the externals. But that is not true. He cares about both. That is why we build beautiful Churches, that is why the priests are supposed to wear beautiful vestments and that is why sometimes we listen to beautiful sacred music. Those are externals, and they are important.

They are all ways of showing God we acknowledge his greatness and at the same time we remind ourselves of the same. Does it make sense to spend millions building magnificent churches and then wear something inappropriate for the Mass?

When someone dresses in such a casual way, doesn’t his or her body language say to God and to others, Well, the Mass is not so glorious, and neither is God?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that our gestures and clothing "ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of the moment when Christ becomes our guest" in Holy Communion. Our clothing has to convey respect and solemnity during the Mass.

We have to do something about all this. For the sake of the younger generations, we have to do something about it. There is more than enough proof that the experiment of bringing casualness into the church in order to bring more people has clearly been a total failure. And you know very well because you know many people that just don’t go to the Mass anymore, and many of you know how it used to be in the past and how different it is now.

If we want our young ones to really love Jesus Christ and the Holy Mass and to really value the Mass and to really believe that there isn’t anything more sacred than the sacrifice of Christ in the Mass and that there isn’t anything more important in this world than the sacrifice of the Mass, and that God Himself present in the Blessed Sacrament, then we really need to start showing them that we believe this, and we have to show them with our own example, with our reverence, with our respect, that show our faith and our love. Otherwise God will hold us responsible for the bad example that we give them.

Let us ask Saint Peter and Saint Paul today to help us love God as much as they did, and to teach us to show Him our love with our behavior.