The first Advent liturgy of my parish was celebrated at 4pm on Saturday. The church was especially packed. I processed in with the first candle for the Advent wreath and as I made my way back to my seat I noticed that there were so many people there. This caused me to add more hosts to the offertory paten after mass began, which was a good thing.
We have lovely music at my parish. The church is not that pretty, is is a big box of a thing, designed in the late 70’s and then renovated in the 80’s. I am told that the architect built car dealerships and banks; this does not surprise me and is likely true.
Anyway, the music was beautiful and the church was pretty full. I would guess that there were 700 people there, give or take.
Just before liturgy began, Father Pat gave me a vintage toy box and asked me to put it near his chair on the altar… I had a feeling that a good homily was ahead and I was right.
Father Pat began with a rhetorical question – “Do you believe that God is engaged in a cosmic battle for with evil?”
He went on to discuss that that kind of thinking sells a lot of movie tickets and book sales and fuels a lot of fear-based actions, but that it is not good theology and is certainly not Roman Catholic theology.
God is God. Period. God created everything, God is God, God is good, God created all.
Now we as humans are always engaged with some inner evil or the perception of such – this we all know.
He went over to the Kenner Give-A-Show box and pulled out a ViewMaster and asked if we were familiar with this. He asked if anyone had one and some kid must have raised his hand, I could not see from where I sat. He asked the kid if he was brave and the kid must have said yes, and next thing you know, Jack, aged 5, is up there on the altar too. He was adorable and precocious. They had a nice chat about what you could see on the ViewMaster!
Pat went on to tell us a story about his childhood. Christmas 1960, when he was 7. He and his sister Sharon woke up at 5am and slid down the stairs (if they walked, the stairs would squeak and give them away) in the dark of Christmas morning. They made their way to the tree, awash in gifts. Clothing gifts were wrapped, but toys were unwrapped. He and Sharon found the “Give A Show” and snuck it into the bathroom, but still couldn’t turn on the light as Grandmother’s room was right there.
With nothing but the light from the Troy, NY streetlamp, they opened the box and tried to figure out what this plastic thing was. He asked young Jack and Jack said it was a gun! It does look a little that way.
It came will film strips so Pat thought it was a ViewMaster thing; he and Sharon stared down the barrel trying to see the images, all 112 of them. It gave them a headache.
You see – unlike the viewmaster in which you stare into it, the Give-A-Show projected an image out. This was not discovered until Pat and Sharon both had bad headaches from trying to focus on Kenner images of Mighty Mouse! (am I the only person who thought of Andy Kaufman at the mention of Mighty Mouse?)
We tend to do things as they have always been done, said Fr. Pat. Like looking into the tube, rather than looking up at the ceiling to see what is projected. Narrow view and big view.
We often have to discover that they way we *thought* things worked are not that all.
And that the apocalyptic nature of the Cycle C readings that we begin today are not just gloom and doom, good and evil. Calamities and disasters are not always what they seem, especially when we consider the enormity of the impact of a God that is all good.
God calls us into being, God calls us to live.
Calamities and disasters can be viewed through a larger lens, projected onto the sky – they are scary (back to Fr. Pat) unless you consider the presence of the loving God who has called you forth and the loving God about to send his son into the world.
We cannot focus on the small lens of our own little fear, but rather must gaze upon the whole sense of time in ways that our own limited temporal and spatial understanding can’t quite grasp.
That is the transcendent. That is Advent. That is Christ. That is God. That is love.
What cosmic battle of good and evil can trump that?
Amen and amen and amen.
(and you wonder why I stay? can you not see how I am fed at this table, fed so bountifully and richly. sleeping on this homily helped me to heal some of the pain of yesterday’s rant and my late night FB ranty-status-update. that – and your companionship, your prayers and your wisdom. thank you.)