This weekend, because of some rather unusual circumstances I ended up going to Mass three times. Not that I mind, if nothing else by the end of the weekend, I felt like I knew a lot more about the readings than I normally do.
Here is the short version of what happened:
On Saturday night, my sons had their last obligation to serve as altar boys, at our old parish, but because several of the kids were sick I only took the older boys to Mass. I have say going to Mass either by yourself or only with older kids that you don’t that you don’t have to keep telling to, “quit touching that,” is really a different experience. Then Sunday morning most of us went as a family to our new parish. One of the older boys was still kind of sick and one of the younger boys was still actually sick so we left them at home to veg out and get better while the rest of us went to Mass. By Sunday evening, the older boy who had been only sort of sick was feeling better. Earlier in the weekend I had gotten a note from a priest that we know, and had been meaning to visit for some time telling us that he would be presiding over Mass at 4PM on Sunday Afternoon. So since I now had a healthy boy, who really should go to Mass if he is well enough, and as I said we wanted to visit with our friend after Mass, we went.
It is really interesting hearing three different takes on the the same readings. And honestly I feel like I learned quite a bit. Though I love history, and read an listen to a lot of it, I have never really studied biblical history, I feel like many people may know a lot more than I do on the subject. So if you have heard some of this before just stick with me for a couple of minutes.
The first Homily given by Father W.E. started out really well. We learned that Nicodemus was one of the Jewish leaders at the time, who didn’t quite agree with the rest of the leaders and wanted to hear more about what Jesus was saying. However, he was not quiet ready to come out into the light about it. (the Theme of the Gospel reading (coming into the light (grace) of God) by the way) and so he would actually come to Jesus at night. So it you read biblical history, he is some times refereed to as the Night Visitor.
Unfortunately that is where the first Homily stopped because it was uninterrupted by, “And here is the pastoral administrator to continue the homily.” The rest of the homily was not on this subject. In fact, though I did my best to pay attention I am not really sure what it was about. One of the things (among many) that I don’t like about the Pastoral Admin giving the homily is that it really never seems to have much to do with anything. So I call this first one a half homily. What there was of it was pretty good, but it was cut short.
The Second homily of the weekend given by Father M.N. He also focused mostly on the Gospel reading, and it was a great call to confession. We as humans would rather live in the dark than come into the light because our lives are evil. That can be hard to hear, but we need to hear it because we as Catholics have a way to reconcile that. Yup, this homily was about the sacrament of reconciliation. Father M.N. is pretty young (about my age, he is young because I am young, So says I.) and he tells a fair number of stories about himself growing up. This week was no different, as he told about a time he did something he really should not have and before he got caught told his mother what he had done. He Talked about how that had freed him of his burden. How as Catholics we were given the gift by Christ of reconciliation and we can have burdens lifted, if only we take part in that wonderful gift. I heard you father M.N. Making plans to go to confession this week.
Father M.N. also took a few moments to explaining why we have to confess to a priest, and not just anyone. This having to do with the power Jesus gave to the Apostles on the third day, saying “whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven…” and how that was passed down from the Apostles to the priests of today. He did this with the help three young men (early teen-aged boys) pretending to be the bishops of the past, passing down the power of the Apostles.
Father M.N. tends to preach for a younger audience. He includes a lot of stories about his childhood, he very often gets genuine laughs from children and adults alike (real laughs.) His Homilies are animated and loud. This is not by any means a negative comment, just a comment on what I see. Everyone in Mass who is old enough to pay attention, is paying attention because he holds your attention and what he is saying is interesting. That can be a challenge and I really appreciate that he makes that effort and goes the extra mile to engage the people in the pews.
The Third Homily of the week was given by Father M.M. He happens to be a good friend, and someone I think of as a spiritual adviser, even if he really does not know that. (BTW I don’t THINK he reads this so…) If I sound overly enthusiastic about this homily it is because I am. He is a great speaker, and someone who never pulls any punches about the faith.
This Homily, though it did talk about the Gospel reading some, focused more on the first reading, in which Israel was taken into captivity by Babylon and denied their Sabbaths for 70 years. Father M.M. focused on the loss of the right to practice our faith, an how if we do not actively participate in the Mass we run the danger of having it taken away from us. As demonstrated in this reading God can even work through the non believers. If we, for example, say I don’t need to go to Mass because “I read the Bible at home,” or “I take a walk in the park to get closer to God” we are missing out on the most important part, The sacrifice that was given to us by God Himself, the the Body and Blood, that we are commanded to do, “In Memory of Me.” A paraphrased quote, “birds are great but they don’t pray to God. Dogs are nice, and obedient but they don’t have souls. The Animals of nature are great but they do not offer sacrifice. The human person is different.”
Near the end of the Homily, Father M.M. did talk about how this related to the The HHS mandate, and how if we let something like this happen, what will be next? I took this as a very fitting analogy to, “[Their enemies] burnt the house of God and tore down the walls of Jerusalem…”
I want to pause for a moment to say that I don’t have any illusions about The U.S. being Jerusalem and though the HHS mandate currently facing the U.S. is a big deal, it is not quite the same thing. However I am speaking more about the loss of religious freedoms around the world and the general apathy of those that call themselves religious to do anything about it.
Before it got to the HHS Mandate, Father M.M. spent a few minutes driving home what I think was a very important point. He told another story about Cyrus, this one historical in nature and not biblical, though very telling about the man’s character. Again I am going to paraphrase. The story went like this.
Cyrus’s army had destroyed another army that had given them trouble for some time. The Leader of which was brought to the palace presumably to be executed. When he arrived for whatever reason Cyrus deiced to question him instead.
Cyrus: What would you do if I spared your life?
Other leader: I would serve you forever.
Cyrus: What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?
Other leader: I would die for you.
Later that day
Other leader to his wife: Did you see that Palace?
Leader: what did you see then?
Wife: the face of the man who said he would die for me.
While telling the story at the proper points Father M.M. pointed to various parts of the very beautiful church building. Reminding us why we come to Mass, and what it is important for us to come to Mass and not just pray in our homes or “commune with nature.”
Father M.M. Tends to preach more toward adults, in language that everyone can understand. The subject (as all the homilies I talked about are) is always serious and gives you a lot to think about. I usually find myself not getting all of the message of Father M.M.’s homily until I have had time to really think about it. (In other words they are very deep and give me a lot to think about.)
So as you can see two and a half homilies, that were very good, and very different. I came away from this weekend trying to figure out if there was a way from me / us to attend a Mass with Father M.N. and Father M.M. every week to get the most out of the readings. I don’t think there is but it would be interesting. I don’t normally attend more than one Mass in a weekend and don’t think the situation to do this again will present itself any time soon but it certainly made for an interesting weekend for me.
I want to note that I am not by any stretch of the imagination a biblical scholar and I am by am by no means critiquing any of the homilies that I heard this weekend. My comments were and are my opinions. (See warning #1 and #2 on the upper left side of the page.) I respect all three of the priests and appreciate that they have different styles. And I thank all three of them for enlightening me this weekend.
I don’t think I have access to the text of any of the homilies from this weekend, so I am going from memory here folks. If I left out part of a homily it is only because I am human and forget things. The parts I talked about where the parts that stuck out most to me, and therefore had the greatest impact. The comments about style at the end of each homily was meant to give you an idea of the flavor of each of their preaching styles.
The Readings from the week were all from the Forth Sunday of Lent, Cycle B
2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
The causes for the Israelites’ captivity in Babylon are described.
A lament from exile for the loss of Jerusalem
In grace we have been saved, so that we may do the work of the Lord.
Jesus tells Nicodemus that the Son of Man will be raised up so that those who believe in him will have eternal life.