Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Am I a critic when I should be a student?

You know what I don’t like about Mass? It drives me nuts when the music is terrible. If the musicians need walkers to get to the front of the church then you may as well just leave. Of course, it has to be respectful, too. I don’t like it when there’s a whole band of kids up there with a guitar, bongo drums, keyboard, tambourine, cowbell, xylophone, harmonica, etc. It makes me wonder if they recruit with the slogan “if it makes noise, you can play it in our band”. Music should focus us on the liturgy, you know? I shouldn’t focus us on how awesome the band is or make my ears hurt.

But that’s just the beginning, really. What really gets me is when the priest acts like he’s a reading the minutes from last month’s city commissioners meeting. Could Fr. Monitone go any slower or sound any less excited?

Even worse is when that same priest’s homily is twenty minutes long and somehow manages to incorporate abortion, the Vietnam War, the priest’s upcoming surgery, and everything in the world other than the Bible readings we just heard. Doesn’t it drive you crazy?

Doesn’t that just ruin your Mass experience?

I have to admit that these things do affect me and I have to wonder why. After all, why am I going to Mass? Am I going to be entertained? Am I going to hear a fiery homily? Am I going for passion and conviction?

If so, why? That stuff is nice and all but isn't it just the packaging of the real event, the presence of Christ in Word and Sacrament? These things are like wrapping paper on a gift. They aren’t the gift; they’re just the presentation of it.

If you gave me the gift of a never-ending life of supreme joy and it was presented in wrapping paper that I didn’t like, wouldn't I be a fool if I threw away the gift just because I didn't like how it was presented?

The problem here is that I'm judging the value of the gift on how much I like the wrapping paper. If I like the music then the Eucharist is somehow “better”; if I didn’t like the homily then somehow the Scripture reading was less valuable. Isn’t that odd considering the presence of Christ is exactly the same at each and every Mass?

This reminds me of a line from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Uncle Screwtape writes to a novice tempter about how to handle his “patient” when he goes to church. “The trick is to make him a critic where he is supposed to be a pupil”.

We have all been invited to the wedding feast of the lamb; a feast we have no right to attend by our own merit. Only love and mercy allow us to come. Wouldn’t it be a shame if I didn’t participate in the feast because I was too busy critiquing the invitation?