Monday, May 10, 2010

When Catholic Mass sermons go bad

I'm doing something I've never done before, which is start up the old computer while watching morning Mass on TV, so that I can criticize the sermon that I just heard.

For those not Catholic, here's the structure. There are usually two Bible readings during Mass, plus excerpts from one of the Psalms. The sermon (or homily) follows a reading from the Gospel. Those of you not Catholic can probably grasp quicker than it seems some priests do that the sermon follows the Gospel so that the priest can EXPLAIN THE GOSPEL.

I just listened to a sermon by a priest who I thought knows better, but obviously does not, that was one of the worst I have listened to. It referenced the Gospel not at ALL, except for a lame sentence added at the end. Instead, it sounded like a New Age sermon touting healing miracles.

How did this mistake happen? Here's the problem. Catholics correctly uplift and celebrate saints on their special days. It is correct because people need to hear practical real life inspiration by those who have been demonstrated to be in sanctified service to the Lord God. So I didn't mind mention of the virtues and life story of "today's saint." However, it went on too long, and then to my horror, as I expected the priest to FINALLY get around to um, you know, MENTION THE GOSPEL, he went into a detailed awe struck ridiculous detailing of the medical "miracle" of modern people who have been "cured" by their belief in the saint.

As a result we heard allllllllll about the doctors, the patient, the big old cancer boo-boo, about some nun who sucked on cigars to help a leper patient, blah, blah, blah. I'm glad I don't have breakfast before Mass because I'd have hurled.

I consider it a SIN to be a priest and to give a sermon that does not even mention, say nothing of actually explaining, the GOSPEL. The sermon in a Catholic Church is not a pep talk on whatever subject the priest thinks would be hip (or someone tells him to do, as I know happens). It is also, as the Gospel, a SACRED part of the Mass, as in the sermon the priest is actually imitating both Christ and his disciples, by EXPLAINING GOD.

Worse, if it can get any worse, the lack of connection between the Gospel reading and the blah blah blah about the people who have miraculous cures, help out the down and out, etc creates a false idea about the Gospel message in people's minds. They assume they are linked and they are not!

The Gospel today, about Lydia, who heard Paul, believed, was baptized and saved, was not about Lydia thinking "Hm, here are holy people. I better believe in them in case I need a miraculous cure someday." It is the OPPOSITE because many early believers had nothing but martyrdom for their faith to look forward to. Lydia believed because she knew the Truth, through the Holy Spirit, when she heard it. She didn't "invest" in "this God" in case Paul and the others would cough up a miracle, or "in case" she needed a miraculous cure. Yet, incredibly, this priest let that impression linger, and even basically said so at the end (the old saw that you never know who might come along with miraculous power, blah, blah, blah).

Look, you don't breathe air because you think someday a tank of oxygen might cure you in illness, do you? Each day you take a breath and think to yourself, "Well, I better keep breathing just in case one day I am sick and only a tank of oxygen falling out of the sky will save me." No, duh, you breathe each day because 1) you need to and 2) it is the correct thing to do all on its own (ie. the truth). Likewise you don't believe in God in case some miracle is needed someday, or because someone may OR MAY NOT have had a miraculous cure! You believe in God because like the air, God is the ever present reality.

Heaven help us. Do we not have enough problems?

Priests, you better make sure that your sermons address the Gospel. If not, why are you there?

Prayers for the priests who are somehow keeping their sanctified purpose in the midst of those who seem determined to lead them astray. Do not follow "self agenda" sermon giving priests as your example. You are there because of the Gospel and you are indeed even alive because of the Gospel. You better be helping the people understand THAT Gospel in each and every sermon that you give, period.