My dear friends,
Many years ago, when I was assigned to another parish that shall remain nameless, I noticed early on in my assignment that in one particular Mass, it seemed like the people were leaving in a bad mood. Now these were perfectly nice people who had come to encounter Christ, but since I rarely celebrated that particular Mass, I would stand there nonetheless in a futile attempt to share whatever joy of Christ they missed during Mass. One weekend, I was finally assigned this Mass by my pastor. So, I get up to preach my homily and ask the congregation a very direct question: “What does Jesus do to you during this Mass to make you so angry? I stand outside every week to greet you and when you come out you got these sour faces that betray the joy of a Christian that has just experienced Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. So, I ask you: what does Jesus do to make you angry during Mass?” Obviously, the congregation laughed it off thinking I was kidding around with them … except I wasn’t. After Mass, they were all smiles and thanked me for the nice homily, but sadly the following week, the sourpuss faces were back.
For the most part here at the Church of the Little Flower, we are a joyful people. However, there are times when I greet people after Mass or even observe them during Mass where it just doesn’t look like they are particularly thrilled to be here. Now I know that we are living through times that aren’t exactly smile inducing, but we are still called to reflect the joy of Christ. It goes without saying that we are not here to be entertained, but there is something to be said about a Catholic who goes to Mass and is completely unmoved from the divine reality that just transpired. Sure, you may not like the homily or the music, but the fact remains that Christ is made present at our altar and we must reflect that Christ that we encounter at Mass.
Pope Francis often talks about “sourpuss Catholics,” and he made mention of them in his Encyclical Letter, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel:”
The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything (cf. Jn 16:22). The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervour. Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow … One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, “sourpusses”. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents. While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to Saint Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). (EG 84-85)
Make no mistake, the times we live in with the pandemic, economic uncertainty and all the challenges we face day in and day out may lead us to “defeatism” and the “disillusioned pessimism” that our Holy Father mentions, but we cannot — and must not — give in, ESPECIALLY when we come to seek refuge in our church in the arms of our Lord. We must walk out of Mass as a people transformed by a genuine encounter with Christ. We must “march on without giving in.” We are called to mirror our Savior. We encounter way too many sourpusses and unpleasant people out in the world. We must be the joyous Catholics that Christ calls us to be.
Pope Francis concludes: “We are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink. At times, this becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from his pierced side, that our Lord gave himself to us as a source of living water. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!” (EG, 86) Hope is what we offer in this sacred space. Hope is what we must take out into the world. There are way too many sour Christians out there doing more harm than good. May those who walk out of our church after Mass be as radiant as our Lord during the Transfiguration, with smiles that will transform even the most pessimistic person we may encounter during our week. This is what we are called to do. This is how we transform the world.
God bless you all,