I was visiting a church in central North York this past Sunday of Corpus Christi and I was surprised to hear a homily where the priest didn’t mince words about worthiness to receive. He started off by speaking of a strategy recommended by Voltaire to become an atheist – receive communion with as much sacrilege as possible and one day you will find yourself an atheist. From there he went on to talk about the conditions for the proper disposition for receiving the Eucharist. I would never have bet any money that I’d hear that from the pulpit in this day and age, and those of us with a particular hunger for straightforward truth expect to be let down with vaguer homilies about how God is good and so are we.
It is true that young Catholics have a particular attraction to a certain absolutism of the Faith, especially in a post-modern relativist culture. We lay young Catholics like to complain and joke with one another about water-downed homilies designed to leave everybody feeling complacent but I’m starting to realize that the new generation of pastors are not preaching to the same guidelines. Are you not perking your ears up when you start to hear more about contraception, abortion, co-habitation, and same-sex marriage discussed with clarity and in complete harmony with the teachings of the Magisterium? Is it not encouraging to hear well-developed reasoning in these counter-cultural messages?
An older pastor that I know avoids the so-called hot button issues because he feels that preaching about them in this way solely reinforces and encourages those who wish to win an argument rather than to actually have their hearts renewed and transformed. In a diverse parish such as my own, the pastor seems to have to deal with the dilemma of losing half his congregation preaching one way and losing the other half if he doesn’t.
So now what? These homilies require time for proper preparation, intense prayer, and great courage. Encourage and support your pastors. Let them know that you appreciate the work and the courage it took, especially when preaching the Church’s teachings when they are unpopular. Be active in your community and see what role you can play in helping to make sure the message takes root in the hearts of the congregants. Live out the Gospel, and be a light for those around you. As orthodox as you consider yourself to be, be attentive to the homily such that you as the well-informed Catholic can grow from it as much as the ill-formed one. The new Springtime of the Church is becoming more and more obvious as time goes by.
Blessed John Paul II, pray for us!