Monday, October 10, 2011

Homily - 28th Sunday

I don’t know if we have marketing majors here tonight, but I want each of you to put on your marketing hat for a minute. It’s not to market products because the two things I will ask about are not products. They are more difficult to market than products. The first is Heaven. How would you market Heaven, especially on a college campus? You might come up with slogans like, “The greatest party forEVER” or “The eternal buzz…and no hangover”. I would use the phrase from the first reading (Isaiah 25): “A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines”. That sounds so good! It sounds so appealing. The second is the Mass. How would you market Sunday Mass? If you have ideas, let me know! And, if you struggle with this, well, welcome to my world. Again, we can use the same inviting phrase from Isaiah 25: “A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines”. This, of course, is describing the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ. It’s not just convenient to use the same slogan, it’s true. Heaven and the Mass are the same realities because Mass is Heaven on Earth.

The Church has described Mass as Heaven on Earth for a long time, but one modern book brings this out very well. “The Lamb’s Supper” by Scott Hahn is an excellent read for those who want to learn more about Heaven, the Mass, and the Book of Revelation. Scott Hahn is a convert to the Church and one of the greatest biblical scholars in the Church. He used to be anti-Catholic and viewed the Mass as idol worship. But, then he came to a daily Mass one day and it changed his life. He is a genius but couldn’t make sense of the Book of Revelation which describes Heaven in vivid imagery. It was at Mass that he began to make sense of it all as he writes:

“I was giddy with the newness of it all. For years I had been trying to make sense of the Book of Revelation as some kind of encoded message about the end of the world, about worship in faraway heaven, about something most Christians couldn’t experience while still on earth. Now, after two weeks of daily Mass attendance, I found myself wanting to stand up during the liturgy and say, ‘Hey, everybody. Let me show you where you are in the Apocalypse! Turn to chapter four, verse eight. You’re in heaven right now’”.

We have copies of this book at the Newman Center library. What Hahn heard from the Book of Revelation is what we hear at every Mass. It is what is heard in Heaven: “Glory to God in the highest” and “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord” and “Behold the Lamb of God”. The language of the Mass takes us up to Heaven. When I say, “Lift up your hearts”, you say, “We lift them up”…to the Lord…to Heaven. When we come to Mass, we get a serious glimpse of what Heaven will be like. When Christ came, He brought Heaven to Earth. Now, He brings Earth to Heaven in the Mass. All of the language, gestures, and hymns of the Mass are to raise us up to Heaven. It really is a banquet…a wedding feast that is described in today’s Gospel. Jesus says Heaven is like a wedding feast; a wedding between us and God. The Mass is the preview to that feast because it is here that we come into union with Christ in the Eucharist.

The language of the Mass takes us up to Heaven. It is very important to have the correct language in order to have the fullest experience of Heaven on Earth. The language of the Mass used to be Latin, as you might know. Fifty years ago, Vatican II allowed the Mass to be in the vernacular (or native language) which for us is English. In the translation from Latin to English, some of the wording hasn’t been just right. The Church has tried for many years to get it right, and it finally has it. So, there are some changes coming to the Mass. The structure remains the same, but some of the wording will change on the first Sunday of Advent. Most of the changes will be said by the priest, but you will have some changes to your “script”. For example, I will say, “The Lord be with you”; your response will be “And with your spirit”. There will be changes to the Gloria and the Creed, too. You will need to relearn your responses, but we will provide cards so that you will know what to say. This is all so that the language of the Mass is faithful to the Latin and closer to the original.

Finally, a word about the man in the Gospel parable who didn’t have a wedding garment and was not allowed into the wedding feast. The host typically provided garments to all the guests; the man must have refused to wear it and was punished for it. I see the wedding garment as the “state of Grace”. The state of Grace is what admits us into Heaven, so we must always be wearing it. We never know when our time will come; we always need to be ready to go. A good friend that I have known since high school died suddenly on Saturday night. It’s such a shock. We had just talked that afternoon and he sounded great. He was an amazing and holy man who was probably wearing his wedding garment when he died. But, you just never know. We always have to be ready.

The state of Grace is what also admits us to Holy Communion at Mass, so we must always be in it to receive the Eucharist. If we have taken off the wedding garment through mortal sin, we need to go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist (receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is sacrilege and a mortal sin). A mortal sin is a serious sin (such as skipping Mass on Sunday, getting drunk, getting high, any sexual acts outside of marriage) that is done with full knowledge and full consent. We have to know it’s a mortal sin for it to be a mortal sin. If we’ve taken off the wedding garment in these or other ways, Confession puts it back on for us to be ready for Heaven and able to receive the Eucharist…able to share in the “feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines”.

No comments: