We are so blest here at St. Paul. On the average, 2000 people come to church every week. (Maybe not on the 4th of July weekend, but on the average).
Some come out of habit.
Some come because they are forced to come.
Some come because they are afraid not to.
Some come because it makes them feel good.
Some come because they believe that God wants them to come or needs them to come.
Some come because they know that it is good for them to be here.
Some come for all of the above, depending on the day.
Every time we come to Church, God’s Word is proclaimed and the priest does his best to relate it to our lives.
When the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated, we participate in that moment when Jesus offered himself up for our sins.
When Jesus began his public mission, wherever he went he was a big hit.
He taught with authority, He healed their sick and gave them hope;
and people from far and wide came to listen to him.
Then one day Jesus went home, and he stood up in the synagogue where He and Joseph had prayed together for years.
He stood up to explain the Torah amidst the people who knew his family and had watched him grow up from a little boy.
He proclaimed the same message he proclaimed in every town, but “His own” were not ready to accept Him or his message.
Their hearts were closed..
Who knows why?
Was it was their pride?
Was it because they were jealous at his success?
Was it because they came to see the show and be entertained?
Maybe they expected to see a how a hometown kid made it big and how it would benefit them.
Whatever the case, their closed hearts pained him; and hence, Jesus’ lament, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.”
And because their hearts were closed, the seeds which Jesus sowed fell on hard dry soil and were unable to germinate or bear fruit.
A question that this Gospel asks each of us to ponder is simply this:
Are we like the people in that synagogue that day in Capernaum?
What are our expectations when we come to Mass?
Why did we come to Mass today?
Sometimes we priests hear comments like:
Mass is boring.
Why don’t they shake it up a little and get with the times?
I don’t get anything out of going to Mass.
Let me tell you, we’ve heard these comments for years and years.
Good meaning priests have tried all kinds of things to address them.
Those of us who lived through the 60’s and 70’s can remember clown Masses, Polka Masses and even rock Masses.
I was at a Mass once and when I elevated Our Lord after the consecration, the most sacred moment of the Mass, I heard a drum roll; and when I got to the top of the elevation, the drummer hit the cymbal! Imagine ….!!!
There were even balloon Masses where everyone went out after Mass and let go of a balloon. Who knows what that was about?
On the internet I saw one priest dressed up like Barney at a children’s Mass to give the final blessing so that the kids could relate to him.
Some people have come to expect the priest to tell jokes and deliver monologues like David Letterman.
At the same time, they ask us to offer a meaningful, life-changing message. Normally some will listen for 10 minutes, but 5 minutes would be better.
All of these attempts to make the Mass more relevant failed.
None of these things worked.
None of these expectations made us holy,
and none of these things brought us closer to God or each other.
We come to church to worship God and share our lives with Him.
We come to hear God’s Word and allow it to penetrate our hearts and change us.
We come here to be inspired to pour out our lives in loving service of God’s Kingdom.
We come to receive Holy Communion and be in Holy communion with Jesus Christ our Lord and our savior
These things are so much more important than a chuckle at a one liner well delivered.
And if the Priest's homily didn’t inspire us, we have to ask ourselves,
“Is the soil of our heart ready to accept God’s Word and bear fruit?”
How did I prepare for Mass? Did I read the readings before hand and think about them during the week?
Did I calm my mind and my heart before Mass began or do I try to catch up on the Berlin gossip?
If a farmer just went out into the field and simply threw some seed on the ground without first tilling or opening up the soil and making sure that it was fertile and moist, he and his family would go hungry.
The seed could not produce anything because the soil was not ready to receive it.
It was the same for the people in Jesus’ home town.
They simply were not ready to listen; and if we are not careful, it will be the same for us.
Unless we open our hearts and are willing to accept God’s Word, it will fall on barren soil like that tragic day in Capernaum when Jesus went home.