PARTICIPATE! DONT ANTICIPATE!!: A HOMILY ON THE 3RD SUNDAY OF IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C
YOU ARE PART OF WHAT IS GOING ON
Brethren: Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one spirit we were all baptised into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not the hand, I do nog belong to the body,” that would not make it any less part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not the eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs of the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you.” nor again the hand to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so adjusted the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? : When we gather to worship God, we gather as individuals but also as a community. In every community, there are those in leadership position and it is as if they are the true members of the community, and the others are only there to complete the numbers, but it is not so. We cannot say “Since I am not the priest and I am not in the church council, I am not really part of the community, so I will just sit and watch.” This kind of attitude can be seen in the way we participate at mass. Sometimes we complain that the mass is boring. This is because we feel the church belongs to the priest and he must make it sweet or we get out. If the mass is boring, we should blame ourselves also, because we are part of the church. The mass is boring because I did not participate actively. I was participating passively, waiting for something to be done to me, rather than taking part to make something happen. A rule of thumb can be, PARTICIPATE! DONT ANTICIPATE!!
The priest cannot be priest, ursher, proclaimer, sacristian, choir, all by himself. Each member of the community should contribute his/her own talent to make things work well. Participate! Dont anticipate!!
We tend to consider some people more important than the others. God is telling us that those we consider the least important should be given the most attention. We might think of the beggar on the street as useless because he/she does ‘nothing’ as contribution to the growth of society. We may even accuse them of laziness, etc. But as long as we see them as part of the human family, their suffering, creates suffering in us, which is why we look the other way. Solving their problem (Poverty), will also solve our own problems (Indifference). They remain poor if we remain indifferent, and their condition is not any worse than ours. We should not expect their condition to change without our active participation. Participate! Dont Anticipate!!
Everybody should contribute their gifts and talents to the growth of the church. We worship together, not so that the whole community will be entertained by the gift of one of her members, but that each member of the community will enrich the community with his/her gifts. This is the difference between going to the movies and coming for mass. When we go to the movies, everything depends on the actors. Even at that, at least we need to keep quiet and listen to get the most out of the movie. I heard the story of a man in the USA who shot two men in the movie hall, because he had warned them several times to keep quiet and they kept on talking. So even in the movies, a certain level of participation is required. But this is only a passive participation. In the mass, we are to have both passive and active participation.
LISTEN, GESTURE, RESPOND AND REJOICE
In those days: Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning untill midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden pulpit which they had made for the purpose. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; and when he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God; and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands; and they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. And Ezra and the Levites read from the book, from the law of God, clearly; and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to the Lord; and do not be grieved for the joy of the Lord is your strength: The first reading gives us FOUR ways to participate actively, namely to listen, to gesture, to respond and to rejoice.
When Ezra read the readings, it was not only a particular group in the community that listened but all who could understand. These people were standing for 6 hours. Imagine that when you think that a 2 hours mass is too long. Even in that, we only stand at certain part. They were attentive. Sometimes those who do the readings make it very difficult for people to be attentive. But we should all try to be attentive, to participate rather than anticipate. We should approach the readings as God himself speaking to us, through So and So. If God himself is speaking to us and we cannot listen attentively, how then can we listen to our brothers and sisters.
It is important that when we hear the word of God, we do not hear it as the words of Mr. So and So or Mrs. So and So, or Fr. So and So, but as the word of God. That is the reason for having the pulpit. It is true that sometimes the priest likes to move around the people, maybe because the people do not pay attention when he remains at the pulpit, so he moves around to get their attention. But where everything works as it should, the priest should remain at the pulpit, a symbol that whatever is said is said in the name of God, and direct from God’s office, from God’s desk, as it were. That he is not just giving his opinion, but speaking as God’s messenger. The people in turn should understand that what is read and explained during the mass is the word of God and not an opinion of an individual. That is why as much as possible the homily should be based on the scripture text.
During the first and second readings, we usually sit. But during the Gospel, it is customary to stand. Standing is a sign of reverence and a higher level of attention. This is why when we are really impressed by someone we give a standing ovation, which is higher than the one we give sitting down. We sit for the other readings because they are the word of God conveyed through a second person, namely a prophet or an evangelist. But during the Gospel, it is not about God sending a messenger to us as it is about God coming himself in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. After we sit to listen to the homily, another messenger “The Priest” speaking in the name of Christ.
Our sense of reverence is also shown during the consecration when Jesus himself comes among us, not in a symbolic sense, but in a real way in the form of bread and wine. We kneel as a sign of worship. We do not speak only with our mouth but also with our whole body. There are different levels of veneration. Dula is the honor we give to saints. We venerate the saints because they are close to God. Hyper-Dulia is the veneration we give to the Blessed Virgin Mary. We honor her because she is the closest human being to God. But the form we call Latria is only reserved to God himself. This is why, when something is related to God, e.g, the cross, the priest, the altar, even the church building, we bow to them. To Jesus in the Tabernacle we genuflect, but when the Eucharist is visible to our eyes, we go down on both knees. The people in the first reading even had their faces to the ground. This form of worship is only reserved for God and we call it Latria. Kneeling during consecration is not a punishment, but the highest worship we give to Jesus who is REALLY present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. Participate! Dont Anticipate!!
Imagine if you are talking to someone and they just keep quiet. Monologue happens when you talk to your dog. But when you talk to another human being, it should be a dialogue.
There are many places where our responses are required during mass. The most important is what we call the GREAT AMEN, after the Doxology (Through Him, and with Him and in Him…). That AMEN should be loud and clear, because it is a great moment where all glory and honor and worship is offered to God. Apart from this time, there are moments when we need to join in the singing, rather than wait to be entertained by the choir, where we need to say “Thanks be to God” after each readings, etc. Sometimes the priest says “Body of Christ” and the people just make a humming sound. Yet we call the mass boring, when we are the ones who made the mass boring. The people here did not just say Amen. They did so twice to show how active they were at this celebration. Remind yourself everytime you come for mass: Participate! Dont Anticipate!!
Heaven is full of Joy. If the mass is a foretaste of heaven (and that is what it is), and if heaven is full of joy (and that is the truth), then the mass should be joyful. This kind of joy is not an emotional thing, but an act of faith. This is why a person can be joyful even when everything is not going well in their lives. Emotionally, they may not be joyful, but stong in faith, they are joyful. The joy of the Lord is not based on feelings but based on faith. We must not confuse this with the artificial smile we often put on, or the excitement people get only when something is going well. The people in the first reading were celebrating the feast of Sukkot or the feast of Booths and they have a saying that anybody who does not know the joy of Sukkot does not know real joy in this life. We can also say that anybody who does not know the Joy of the Lord does not know real joy in this life. This joy should not depend on the priest, but should be brought about in our joyful participation. Participate! Dont Anticipate!!
LOVE, CONSISTENCY, ORDER AND CHRISTO-CENTRIC
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. At that time: Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as was his custom, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given him the book of the Prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”. And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”: The gospel gives us FOUR more elements in our participation.
This is the beginning of the gospel of St. Luke and it seems to be a letter written to Theophilus rather than something you and I should be bothered about. The question is “Who is Theophilus?”. There are three theories about this. The first is that he is the person who is funding the writing and publication of the gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles (Where Luke also proposed he was writing to Theophilus). The second is that it is a pseudo-name adopted by Luke’s benefactor who doesn’t want his real name mentioned. However, the name Theophilus means Lover of God, or God’s friend. Therefore a third theory proposes that it is an open name for anybody who loves God, for anyone who identifies himself/herself as the Lover’s Beloved. When we are in-love with God, it makes all the difference in our worship. Only love can make someone stand for 6 hour listening to scripture reading without complaining. We reverence those we love. Only love will make people go down on their knees with their faces to the ground. We only respond to those we love. All the aspects of our participation is made possible through love. We should approach the mass as beloved of God. That way, we will not need to be encouraged to participate.