Today, during the homily Fr. Sam said that St Pius X in Towson is a hard parish to preach to. I think that he has said this before and I think I have even blogged about it at least briefly before. He talked about being difficult because people don't respond. He noted that another parish at which he says mass where they do respond and where they are surprised and ask if he is not well when he has a homily of less than one-half hour. If he gave a half-hour homily at St. Pius X people would be very unhappy.
So, why is this something to write about? Well, earlier in the day at home we had been discussing how long mass would be today and I talked about how people should be as excited about God as we are about Ray Lewis and the Ravens. I think it is worth reflecting on two aspects of that comment.
First, excitement about Ray Lewis implies respect for Ray Lewis. I wrote about Ray Lewis when he announced that he would retire at the end of the year. After I wrote that and just before the first playoff game the Ravens were in this fall there was a piece in USA Today reminding readers of the murder case in which Ray Lewis was involved after the Raven's Super Bowl victory. He only pled guilty to obstruction of justice. The piece commented on how not everyone was glowing with respect for Ray Lewis. Then, I had lunch with a former student who had lived in Atlanta when the Raven were in the Super Bowl and she was not a football fan. So, all she knew of Ray Lewis was the situation with the murder. He has redeemed himself amazingly since that time, and forgiveness is a good thing But I always find it interesting to see what people are willing to forgive in others. And people remain willing to get excited about Ray Lewis. Many people at church today had Ray Lewis jerseys on. Clearly, excitement for him is part of the excitement for the Ravens in general.
Second, why are people not as excited about God and celebrating mass as they are about watching Ray Lewis? If we really believe what we say we believe, then shouldn't we be excited. Isn't the idea that God sent his son to die for the forgiveness of our sins incredible? (Skeptics may say yes, incredibly in the sense of being not credible.) Isn't Jesus blessing us with the Holy Spirit amazing? (Something else that Fr. Sam commented on--many Catholics' disregard of the Holy Spirit in our day to day lives.) Do we not get excited because we hear about it 52 weeks a year every year rather than just 16-20 times a year for 17 years in Ray Lewis's case? And even if we claim to be excited in our hearts and minds, we certainly don't tend to vocalize and verbalize about our excitement about God in the same way we do about sports--Ray Lewis, the Ravens, or anything else.
Some may say it is all a matter of what is considered appropriate and context. Great. Maybe I can understand that argument. But why has our culture evolved in the way that? That is an interesting question to ponder. And I'll be the first to admit that I don't vocalize in a crowd at church, I do spend time writing, thinking, pondering, and sharing for any who care to share with me. Since I don't get all that excited about sports, maybe I could say that I do get as excited about religion as about sports. Or perhaps that would still be giving myself more credit than I deserve. Nevertheless, it is something for which I strive and try to find ways to make clear that I am as excited about my faith, my spirituality, and my belief in God as I am about any sport.