Saturday, March 23, 2013

Palm Sunday Homily (Anglican Retreat)

Such can be hard to do, but disciples are called to serve.

Shortly after my Presbyteral Ordination, a couple of years ago, I was feeling on top of the world when a friend of mine cautioned me:  “Pierre,” he said, “remember these peaks when you go into the valleys”.   For better or for worse, I soon found out that honeymoons do not last.  In two years I have experienced frustration, grief, humiliation, anger and sadness, along with inner peace and joy.  Such is the nature of Christian life. 

So we have a new Bishop of Rome, as well as a new Archbishop of Canterbury.  I am not as intimately affected by the latter, but can tell you that the election of Pope Francis has placed me and many others on top of the world once again.  For anybody who wants to see change in the Roman Catholic Church this is an exciting time – but we all know the honeymoon will not last.  Scribes, Pharisees and Romans are already manoeuvring to discredit the new Pope, or to downplay the prophetic nature of his actions, linking Francis to less holy ways of the past.   Indeed difficult times lie ahead for he, for Justin Welby, and for the Church.

Christ knows all about such challenges.  When the despairing people of Jerusalem cry out for a Messiah, Jesus becomes theirs’ for a day.  But no sooner is betrayal plotted than while they are feasting together.  And through vanity it thickens (men gathered for supper jockey for positions and pledge their loyalty as though words mean anything without actions).  In the end, fear overcomes all; Jesus is abandoned and put to death. 

Apparently, we are an insecure Church.  As people of God we desperately long for a Messiah to eliminate fear and grace with unwavering hope -and sometimes despair wins.  Sometimes we fail to see the salvation walking amoung us. 

This week, holy week, is for Christians the reminder that we do not always see nor do we understand the obvious.  The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, memorialized by Eucharist, is the source and the summit of discipleship.  These events can be a wake up call and/or a liberation.   The journey of Jesus to his cross and beyond can and does transform the clueless into the conscious, the unsure into the zealous, the afraid into the courageous, and the desperate into the hopeful, but such is a journey that never ends.  As they go with God through peaks and valleys believers become who they are, sharers in the life, death and resurrection of a Christ who has been there before. 

Ours’ is a God who makes all things possible.  From Him may we discover what it takes to do the impossible –to suffer through valleys and emerge ready, able, and willing, to serve. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Why Pomp and Pageantry is Ugly - My Liturgical Comment

Not all press on Pope Francis has been friendly.  In apologetic tone, self-described Catholic liturgical “traddies” struggle to makes sense of the Pontiff’s lowly oriented instincts.   Many Catholics grieve the end of "Benedictine" rule, characterized in part by dismay for the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.  Pope Francis signals a move toward more “simplicity” in Catholic worship;  he has said that he is not into “Carnivals”, so to speak.  Thus pietists fear the loss of an identity rooted in some of the most subversive traditions of a triumphalistic cohort.  As a man who will not be caught dead in lace, I fail to empathize.   The un-catechized equate simple with ugly and beauty with the lie that we are stuck in our sins.   The church equates beauty with salvation, confidence in the outstretching truth and the goodness of a risen Lord.  'Might we avoid the sickness of a self-referencing body' (Pope Francis)?

In Catholic worship we celebrate what God does for us.  The Eucharist is the “Source and Summit” of Christian life, where we attest that God incarnates and transforms.  Eucharist is the church’s statement that God enters this world in profound ways, and changes human beings into spirit-filled disciples.  And perhaps most importantly, Eucharist states that God sides with the poor. 

Christians believe that Christ is present whenever two or more gather in His name.  In liturgy, we say that God is present in the Word, in the Presider, in the People gathered, and in the forms of Bread and Wine.  Each of these presences carries its own, but equal, significance.  But beyond the fact that God is present to God’s people, we have to acknowledge that God affects us in the in-breaking (sacrament).  That is why we call Eucharist "the source", as well as "the summit". 

We say that Eucharist is the source because we take it with us when we leave.  In the world we are called to do for others (hence the holy Thursday foot washing) what God does for us in sacrament (symbolic of what God does through the cross).   When we return, it should be evident why Eucharist is our summit.  Common worship, complete with signs and symbols of a transformation, announces what Christians have become for the world.  Through gestures of mutual dependence, indications of baptismal dignity and universal hope, a church of prophets, teachers, proclaimers, and more, images appreciation for what God does within them.  And there is nothing more beautiful than human beings redeemed – people who serve.

Pomp and Pageantry displays the dark side of humanity.  It flaunts a perverse desire to construct superficial hierarchies, to abdicate personal accountability along with mutual dependence, and to suppress grace.  To downplay or to deny the inclusive and the transformative liberation of the risen Christ is a slap in the face to our Jewish ancestors who for centuries longed for what Christians have received.  Pomp and Pageantry is ugly because it highlights the sins of a fallen race rather than celebrating the Beauty, the Truth, and the Goodness of a victorious God. 

Of course, this is just my opinion.