May 28, 2006

Bad Preaching

I heard an atrocious homily this weekend. The deacon was speculating on what the first Christians did in these ten days between the Ascension and the appearance of the Spirit on Pentecost. He said that they were able to select Matthias as Judas' successor during this time because that was just business and didn't require much inspiration. He assured us that they were praying, but without much consolation because the Consoler had not yet come.

The whole mess brings up a real question about how we read the Scriptures in the first place. We hear of many mysteries during the Paschal seasons of Lent, Holy Week and Easter. But the truth of the matter is that all these mysteries, the Passion and death of the Lord, the Resurrection and the sending of the Spirit, these are all really one thing. It is as if we are contemplating one jewel through different facets.

There are intimations of this in the Scriptures themselves. In John the Spirit is handed over from the Cross. Luke alone (except for the longer and doubtful ending of Mark) relates the Ascension and does so twice, once at the end of his Gospel and again at the beginning of the Acts. This alone ought to lead us to see that we are dealing with a narrative device rather than a chronicle. The story of Pentecost is set in the same place as the Last Supper, helping one to see that there is a connection between the farewell of Jesus, the gift of the Eucharist and the sending of the Spirit upon the apostles.

Perhaps this is why the Spirit gave us four canonical Gospels with sometimes differing accounts, so that we might not try to make a timetable out of God's work of salvation. The Passion and death of the Lord, the Resurrection and the gift of the Spirit are one mystery which we come to understand only through a contemplation of its distinct aspects.


Crescentius said...

My dear Brother:

You are right to say that all this is ONE mystery, the Paschal Mystery.

As I said yesterday, when we try to interpret "mysteries of God" we run the risk of applying definitions that can "compartmentalize" Mystery. It is our pride that applies these definitions in an attempt to control Mystery from an intellectual point of view. We then can become too comfortable with Mystery and thus not surrender to them, fall into them. These definitions provide a safety net if you will and turn a salvific history into one of your Soap Operas.

On a more personal and juridic note, the office of preacher is a "sacred duty and trust". Our Holy Father Francis did not want just anyone to hold the office of preacher. Chapter 9 of our Most Holy Rule states that "Let none of the brothers dare to preach to the people unless he has been examined and approved by the minister general..." Speaking for myself I do not take this responsibilty lightly. I learned from Blessed John Parenti, of happy memory, to throughy examine the brothers and make sure they pray the scriptures before they preach them. I hope your deacon was not of our fraternity or "fraternal correction" might be in order.

your servent

Jason said...

I've heard a couple of pretty good homilies the last two Sundays at two different churches. On Ascension Sunday the priest first made a point about why Catholics don't handle snakes (or interpret other Scripture literally like other Christians might), which basically goes back to inheriting our faith from the apostles. So whatever they interpreted literally, we interpret literally; whatever they understood at metaphoric, we do likewise. And from there he asked us about what serpents we have in lives that tempt us to believe lies about God.

This past Sunday I only remember a short comment made about how the disciples had locked themselves in that room at Pentecost because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Yet just like Jesus appeared to them, the Spirit of God came upon them and suddenly they were out preaching the Gospel. I think what struck me was how we can lock out parts of our lives or our hearts from other people and even God, but eventually God breaks down every barrier we try and throw up.

So, I just felt like sharing a little. :)