Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Tuesday After Christmas: Feast of St. John the Evangelist
I was blessed to be able to have off from work yesterday and today and although the weather did not entirely cooperate this Tuesday, I made the most of it before the rains came. I decided not to guilt myself into any early-morning Masses on my days off, mainly because it's Week 3 of the Respiratory Infection from You-Know-Where and I barely made it through Christmas Eve and Christmas. So I opted for Noon Mass both days.
Yesterday, the abuses I witnessed at the church down the street were too numerous to mention. The problem is, there are several really good orthodox priests at this church, but you never know who you're going to get until immediately before Mass begins. Yesterday we had a relatively new priest who, although he is young, is infirm, so I make certain allowances for him. The problem is that his Masses always seem to coincide with people in attendance who are, shall we say off-balanced?
A couple brought a young woman with them who obviously has mental challenges. They insisted on sitting in the front row where she caused a major disturbance all though Mass that would probably not have been so disruptive had they sat in the back. I could let this pass but what they did immediately after Mass was inexcusable. On Mondays, there is a Novena to Our Mother of Good Counsel afterward. Instead of either staying for the novena or leaving quietly, the couple chose to stand in the middle of the aisle and talk to two other women who had been sitting near them. The priest patiently waited for them to conclude and when it became apparent that it was going to be a long conversation, a man politely went over and asked them to step outside because the priest was still speaking.
Why do people insist on coming to Mass and making themselves the center of attention?
This church is just a few blocks from my home. It offers Adoration and Confessions nearly every day, with the latter no longer scheduled for Sundays. It is a blessing to have the sacraments so nearby, yet I almost never leave there without feeling like I've committed a sin. If it's not the priest who doesn't purify the chalice after Communion then it's the priest who skips over all the names of the martyrs in the Roman canon and adds his own saints instead, whether they're martyrs or not. Or, it's the priest who, though he is able-bodied, doesn't genuflect when he opens the tabernacle and whose consecration of the Host more closely resembles someone holding up a cue card. It's so sad and I don't wish to be an accomplice to this abuse, yet as I said, there are other priests there who do play by the rules.
Because of how lousy I've been feeling, I decided I would go there today for Adoration and then, depending on how I felt, head uptown for Mass. I am so glad I decided to make the walk into town. I realized when I got to the Center City Church run by the Franciscans that it was the titular feast of their patron, St. John the Evangelist. Our celebrant was a very joyful but no-nonsense priest who I have come to love both at Mass and in the confessional. When people made the wrong response to his greeting at the opening of the Mass, he said: "You have your prayer cards, right? Use them!" I could have applauded. I am so tired of people not even making an effort to make the proper responses.
His homily was very simple. John believed, because he saw.
"What about us? What have we seen?"
Father talked about the thousands of Catholics who have fallen away from their faith, either because they stopped believing or because they don't like certain tenets of the church. He reminded us that St. John the Evangelist gives us a good picture of what the Final Judgment will look like.
"There's a place for you in Heaven," he reminded us. "How hard are you willing to work to earn it?"
This morning, before I headed over to St. John's, I prayed the Rosary during Adoration, and I focused on an image that I have found comfort in ever since Father Galligan passed away. In the image, the Virgin Mary lays the Baby Jesus in Father's arms, just as she did for Simeon that day in the Temple, and I imagine the joy Father feels as he gazes at the sleeping Holy Child. I was thinking of how wonderful it will be to one day hear the Lord say "I love you" to me, face to face.
Then came His response.
"Why do you need to hear Me say it? You have only to look at the crucifix on this altar to know how much I love you. If you are not convinced by this, you cannot be convinced. Who else do you know was willing not only to lay down their life for you but to be mocked and scorned in the process? If this is not love, what is?"
As St. Athanasius wrote and as we heard in Christmas homilies this past weekend,
"Jesus became humanity so that humanity might become divine."
I think humanity, myself included, had better try a little harder.
Yesterday, I visited the Live Nativity at a Protestant church in Old City. For years, the same church has sponsored this little oasis of peace in the midst of a broken and chaotic world. I took my camera with me to photograph the animals but what caught my eye first wasn't the baby donkey and calf, but the creche that had been desecrated. The mannequins that make up the Holy Family and the visitors were toppled over, and the Baby Jesus was nowhere in sight. Mary's head had been ripped off. Miraculously, the animals seemed unscathed and I watched visitor after visitor come up to the scene and not even notice the carnage that had taken place inside the stable. People were coming to admire how cute the baby animals were without a thought given to the significance of their presence. I wasn't sure which I found sadder - the destroyed creche or the people who ignored it altogether.
"He came unto His own, and His own received Him not."
And they still don't.
St. John the Evangelist, pray for us and for them that we might believe and love as you did.
Posted by TLW at 2:17 PM