Sunday, 15 March 2009

Silence in Church, 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B, Shaftesbury

Jn 2:13-25
Today’s Gospel records what might seem an odd picture of Jesus: the ANGRY Jesus. The Lord filled with a RIGHTEOUS anger –we we don’t often see:
He is often SAD about the towns who refuse to believe in Him. He is also DISTRESSED about the Pharisees, especially when He condemns them for their imposing burdens on others without doing anything to help (Mt 23:4;13). But the ONLY time when we see Him REALLY angry is in the event of today’s Gospel: in the Temple. He makes a whip and drives the people out. We see nothing even vaguely like this anywhere else in the Gospels. And why is Jesus angry? Because people are abusing the House of God.
Jesus is not angry with a selfish anger, but with an anger for the offence to the House of His Father, the Temple consecrated to sacred worship. “Zeal for Thy house has consumed me” (Ps 69:9)

Now, this should make us think. Because this reveals a lot about the Lord’s priorities. Worship, and respect for the things of worship is top of the Lord’s list.
So in our Lenten self-examination we’d do well to think of how we score in that regard, to think how we might improve.
Let me give you a few simple issues: First, Do you pray every day? Do you value God enough to have a regular time you give Him? First thing in the morning, last thing at night, sometime in between? And when you do pray, Are you focussed on Him or still think about what you’re going to eat for supper?
Second, Sunday Mass itself. We have an obligation to “keep the Lord’s Day holy” (3rd Commandment) –and that means EACH Lord’s day, not just SOME Sundays! And to keep it holy by Holy Mass –the prayer Christ gave us to “do this in memory of me”.
Finally, when you come to Mass, How do you behave here? Do you actually focus yourself on what you’ve come here for, or you do let your mind wander? Do you let distractions become an excuse to not pray?

I’m going to make myself unpopular by making an even more specific query about your behaviour in church, and about the behaviour of this congregation in general:
There is too much talking in this church and not enough reverence for it as a sacred place set aside and consecrated for sacred use, for the worship of the almighty. Sometimes I can hear people talking and chatting in here as if this place were a coffee-shop or pub, not a place of worship! I’m not complaining about children making noise but about adults!
Let me give you three simple reasons why we need to be silent in church:
First, before Mass, so you can prepare yourself –AND to enable other people to prepare themselves for an encounter with the Almighty.
Second, after Mass, so people can thank God for the almighty gift we’ve received.
Third, because this is a consecrated place, not a social venue, and we need to treat it like what it is.

We have a Hall where we can chat; we have a church where we can pray.
I know the Hall is dual-purpose, and that has tended to blur our sense of the church as a sacred place for sacred things –but we need to recover the sense of that difference. When you see someone you want to have a nice chat with, well, chatting is nice, but go into the hall. Allow the church to become a church again.
This isn’t just my opinion, as I’ve cited in the newsletter, many instructions from the Church remind us not to talk before and after Mass.

We live in a busy, noisy world, and we need to have a place where we can come to that isn’t busy and noisy, a place of peace and tranquillity, a place to be with the Lord. If we’re not quiet before Mass, of course we’re going to be distracted and bored during Mass.

So, back to the anger of Jesus. The righteous burning anger of Jesus only ever flared up about one issue: disrespect of the place of the worship of God. This should remind us to place prayer high on our list of priorities, and place treating the House of God as the House of God as one of things we resolve to start this Lent.

Silence in Church Please:
Before Mass: “Before the celebration itself, it is commendable that silence be observed in the church, in the sacristy, in the vesting room, and in adjacent areas, so that all may dispose themselves to carry out the sacred action in a devout and fitting manner.” (GRIM, n45, 2000AD)
After Mass: “The faithful are to be recommended not to omit to make proper thanksgiving after Communion. They may do this during the celebration with a period of silence... or also after the celebration, if possible by staying behind to pray for a suitable time.” (Inaestimabile Donum n.17)


Anonymous said...

Courageous, Father! Hear hear!

Anonymous said...

Dear Father
I have been told about this homily by a number of parishioners of ours who either heard it at the time or have heard about it subsequently. They are all hugely supportive of what you have said and want the same done here!
Thank you