I am 74 years old. I have an advanced degree in Theology. I don't think that I have missed a Sunday Mass 10 times in my life. I have participated in the Holy Mass hundreds of times on Sunday and during the week. I have done this in hundreds of churches in at least 10 countries plus the West Bank. Needless to say I have listened to countless homilies and slept through more than I can count. But not long ago, September 10, 2007, four days after the 70.5 point of my first glimpse of the light of day, I had a new experience. After the homily, the church broke out in applause. I was flummoxed.
What on earth were you applauding? It is now 4 years after the event and I still can't believe it happened. I still can't figure what you were applauding. In church! After a homily that was laughable? yes; deserving of applause? no, no and no!
1. This was a bombastic display of misplaced human energy. 15 minutes of high volume blasting into a Lavaliere microphone while stalking back and forth across the front of the altar. Yelling and stalking in front of the ALTAR. The holy ALTAR, the TABLE of the Eucharistic banquet. The ambo is off to the side of the Altar because the Altar has the primordial position in the church. The Tabernacle is off to the side of the church because the Altar is the center of our worship during the Holy and Sacred Sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharistic Banquet. This man desecrated the position of the altar and he got applause!
2. He described two sacraments of service: Matrimony and Holy Orders. In describing these he didn't forget to mention that wives have to render service to their husbands and children. He somehow forgot to describe the husband's role in this relationship. That was because he was on a roll and was in a hurry to say that the priest is ordained to serve, and has chosen to serve people rather than the business complex of the world. "That's why you call me Father." Is that what you were applauding?
3. He worked his way down to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Peter. Of course he was high on St. Peter being the Rock and all that. Then he said how wonderful it was to see the Blessed Virgin bow down and humbly accept St. Peter as the head of the church without complaint. Excuse me! When Mary was around, she, pure Judean by birth and upbringing and marriage (she was born in Jerusalem and Joseph in Bethlehem) would not bow down humbly to this smelly, Galilean fisherman. Let me remind you of a few things about Mary. She raised the Child. She protected Him by running down through the Sinai desert to Egypt to protect Him. She scolded Him in front of the rabbis in the Temple. After His cavalier twelve year old retort, she took Him home to Nazareth where He grew in age, stature, wisdom and grace while being obedient to her. Jesus never got the last word with her. Check out the story of Cana. "Do whatever He tells you." Finally, where was Peter when she was standing at the foot of the cross where the One that he had denied was hanging? You applauded this guy for saying that Mary bowed down humbly and accepted Peter as the head of the Church?
On top of all that, while Mary was around, Peter was having zero success in his mission to the Jews. So he was on the coast in Caesarea, talking to the Gentile Romans up and down the coast. Mary was in Jerusalem where St. James was the head of the church. You can look it up in the Acts of the Apostles. If you look it up, I hope you will feel that applauding after a homily, this one in particular, is a mistake.
The priest giving this male triumphalistic bluster is a Missionary of Our Lady of La Salette. God did not send St. Peter to La Salette in France when He had a point to make to the world in the same year that Marx promulgated the Communist Manifesto (1846). He sent His mother, Mary. And she didn't sound too humble either. Listen:
"If my people will not submit, I feel constrained to let the arm of my Son fall upon them. It is so strong and so heavy that I can hardly hold it up and protect you any more. It has been such a long time that I suffer for you. If I do not want my Son to let His arm fall upon you, I must pray for you all the time and yet, you do not pay attention..."
And this is only the beginning. "Those who drive the carts can't swear without putting my Son's name in the middle of their curses. You have six days to work. Yet you do not worship when you go to Mass. When you go to Mass you just go there to mock at religion. During Lent, you go to the meat market like dogs." Did this La Salette Missionary forget this during his endless swagger? Where is Peter, Father? And you in the pews, you applauded?!?
I think that you applauded for the "cute" way he speaks English. I admit that for a Filipino who has never lived in the United States, his English is really quite articulate, grammatically correct and his syntax is good. He is full of Filipino/Tagalog Anglicisms, some of which are humorous and some of which made you laugh. Is that why you go to Sunday Mass? For a performance? Since you applauded, did you give more to the collection? I'm going to check the numbers next week.
I don't think that you applauded for his witty and intelligent reference to Exodus and Leviticus at an early stage of his homily. How many of you have read Exodus? Leviticus? How long would it take you to find these Scriptures without looking at the table of contents at the front of the book?
If you applauded because you like any of these things, it was wrong. The church says that the homily is part of the lesson of the Sacred Scripture for the day. It is not a performance by the priest. It is a liturgical act on the part of the priest. It is a liturgical moment that belongs to the Scriptural lesson that the Church gives us for that Mass. It is a liturgical moment during which the presider of the Sacred Eucharistic Banquet shares his spiritual convictions with the participants in the Mass who are sitting in the pews. This is not Paul's moment. Nor is it Tim's, or Jake's or Jim's. It is God's moment. It is the moment when the priest speaks in the living faith that he has that the Spirit is guiding his tongue. The Mass does not belong to the presiding priest. It belongs to Jesus; it belongs to the Church. The priest does not deserve any applause for any liturgical moment that he provides according to the rituals of the Church. God deserves our prayer of thanks for giving the priest the inspiration to say things that move us in the direction in which God wants us to go.
I don't care whether you applauded for the content or for the style. In both instances, you should have contained your enthusiasm and given it silently to God. Why? well, for starters, the content left plenty to be desired and the style was downright offensive and liturgically erroneous.
I know that after reading this you're sure as shooting not going to cry at my funeral. In fact, you're probably wondering why it is taking so long for it to happen. Talk to God about it. Maybe He'll tell you. He sure isn't letting me know what his schedule is. If it will make you feel any better, make a comment about what you have just read. Don't be shy. I'll even answer you. I will never change my mind. Applauding a homily is wrong.