Rambling on STOP HOMILY Cards and Christ the King (A)

Here is a stroke of genius that will net any Church lots of extra cash: Raffle off a “STOP HOMILY” card to the highest bidder. Listen to this and be awed; a parishioner suggested that we raffle off a brightly colored card, that, when raised, will force the priest/homilist to end his preaching within 10 seconds. Most people would sell their souls to have such a show stopper. Imagine the look on the face of the bishop, retired bishop, priest, retired priest or deacon when, in the middle of their sixth point of exposition of a Gospel with clear meaning, the dreaded sign is raised above the heads of the daydreaming parishioners. The silence from the pulpit would be deafening; people would be looking at one another, “It’s only been 30 minutes, why has Father stopped his homily early?” Realizing that the person who won the raffle had saved them, the congregation would offer fervent prayers of thanksgiving for the winner, only wondering why the lucky person hadn’t raised the card after the five minute mark rather than the 30.

On second thought, we clergy are not known for our flexibility. To stop a homily at the behest of another, no matter how good the raffle money, would be beyond most of the ordained. To ask some of the good Fathers to stop talking is tantamount to holding back the tide (the tide of sacred words that each priest knows will convert the hapless congregation from sinners to saints) Some of this lack of adaptability may come from our manner of dress, “Shall I wear the black shirt today or the black shirt?” The “rigor ex animus” may come from seminary training.

I often hear priests stating with the absolute authority of a Rotal Auditor (kind of the Supreme Court of the Catholic Church) something they were taught in seminary—thirty years ago. I can’t speak to their experiences but only one professor in my graduate seminary had parish experience, and that was only two years.Things are different in pastoral life than in a seminary; granted I was threatened with expulsion only twice in the seminary, never in the priesthood (let’s just say in seminary days someone borrowed some pop bottle rockets from me and used them at 3 a.m.).There is this little admitted fact of life; things change. Cardinal Newman said, “To live is to change; to be perfect is to have changed often.”

One parishioner had a marvelous insight; he thought the reason that priests tend to be inflexible is because they’ve never had children. This has nothing to do with the genesis of the child due to matrimonial duty; you know, sex. It has everything to do with the responsibility that comes with raising a child. Children make you bendable; while we all have some idea on how to raise a child, from day one the baby will do something that’s just not covered in parenting books. As they grow older there will be times they forget to tell you things about school projects, meetings, etc. A parent learns to adapt, to roll with the punches. Priests would rather deliver a punch if someone throws off the schedule. For moms and dads, what they do is “for” their children, not so much “to” their children.

Let’s notice the prepositional theology on this Sunday of Christ the King. The first reading from Ezekiel proclaims what the shepherd does “for” the sheep, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” [EZ 34:11-12,15-17] Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians proclaims what Jesus has done “for” us, “…so too in Christ shall all be brought to life…” [1 COR 15:20-26,28] Notice in Matthew’s Gospel that the Son of Man will judge not based on what we have done “to” each other but “for” each other. [MT 25:31-46] The emphasis in Gospel is not on neighbors and friends but “for” the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned and strangers. For others, like Jesus, is our path to salvation.

Well, back to planning raffle prizes; anyone have any suggestions?

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