Saturday, May 31, 2008

Let’s Hear It for Jesus!

Near the end of our Faith Enhancement class this week, our leader mentioned what a wonderful homily the Monsignor gave at his parish last Sunday for the Feast of Corpus Christi. The priest pointed out how people stand and applaud when a king or queen enters the room, always conscious of proper protocol. Yet when our true king, Christ the King, becomes present on the altar, we do no such thing. At that point, he asked the entire congregation to stand and applaud the Presence of Jesus. The leader and other members of the class thought this was a wonderful gesture to acknowledge the Real Presence.

I can understand the message the good priest was trying to convey. Various polls show that many Catholics do not even believe in the Real Presence anymore. Many of those who do believe fail to show it by their actions at Mass, but is standing and applauding the proper sign of respect? I remember one of our parishioners complaining about the music we select for our Masses. She wanted something more lively and upbeat. What is wrong with applauding Jesus or clapping our hands to the rhythm of more lively Christian music at Mass?

Protestants occasionally accuse us Catholics of re-sacrificing Jesus at the Mass. Jesus died once and for all, they will tell us. Catholic apologists repeatedly have to explain that we do not re-sacrifice Jesus at the Mass. The Mass is the re-presentation of the same, once and for all Sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. The hyphen in re-presentation is to make clear the meaning. That very same Sacrifice on Calvary is made present again on the altar of every Catholic Church at every Mass. That very same Sacrifice is present for us, unlimited by space or time, in an unbloody manner. Every time we attend Mass, we are actually kneeling at the foot of the Cross.

Now, if we imagine ourselves at the foot of the Cross with the Blessed Mother, the apostle John, and Mary Magdalene, how would we behave? Would it be appropriate to stand and applaud? I don’t think so. Yet, the Mass is also a celebration. We experience joy in knowing Our Lord died for our salvation. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not parish but might have eternal life. He also gives us this wonderful gift of the Eucharist. So, what is the proper response for us?

We should display our utmost reverence for the Presence of Our Lord on the altar. Our reverence should be reflected in the way we act, the way we dress, the way we worship, the way we pray, they way we sing, and the way we prepare ourselves to receive Him. Applause and fanfare may be adequate for an earthly king who did little to earn his throne beyond being born into the royal family. Christ the King who freed us from our sins by His death and resurrection, deserves much more from us.

This year, the Feast of Corpus Christi coincided with Memorial Day weekend. On Monday morning, we attended a Memorial Day service at the cemetery conducted by the local Veterans. The mood was somber and respectful as we remembered those who died to protect our freedom. There were salutes and prayers. Some choked back tears as they spoke of their fallen comrades. Others spoke of freedom we enjoy each day because of those who gave their lives. A bugler played taps. When he finished, there was no cheering or applause. No one complained that the music was not lively enough. People approached quietly and left quietly. Nobody told us how to act. Understanding where we were and what was going on, it just seemed like the appropriate way to behave. I believe there is a lesson to be learned here.

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