Hearing mass can be quite challenging. You need to be inspired and feel reinforced the moment you step out of the church. There should be that “holy” feeling within you that retracts your tongue every time you’re tempted to say bad words, pulls your hair back from any evil thoughts, and stirs that smile deep inside all throughout the day. You liken yourself to an angel, floating unfazed by any negativity. But every after church on Sundays, your chances at donning that bright, glowing halo above you are hinged on the priest’s sermon.
Let’s face it, not all sermons are empowering. Some can be too biblical that you tend to get lost in your own struggles. Others border on fanaticism, dipping their fingers on issues that you’ve had enough of in the news. And there’s a few delivered from start to finish like an engine about to run out of gas, with the priest sounding as confused as the crowd.
Every Sunday, I go to church at six o’clock in the morning. Whenever I miss this timeslot, I grow horns and my toenails stretch long enough to anchor me to the bed; I don’t like to go to church anymore. Somehow going to church at around this time of the morning makes me internalize my commitment more as a Christian and a Catholic. I head to church with not much distractions from around me to process. My mind and heart are still empty around that time, making me long more for that spiritual fill. And so when the priest delivers his sermon, I willingly submit myself to an internal engagement between what the priest is driving at and the purpose for why I go to church. I admit, sometimes I tend to intellectualize.
Sermons are an essential part of church life. But while they are primarily the responsibility of priests, the extent to which they awaken us is largely contingent on our ability to find reason within us to piece the points together. There are times when the discussion of the scripture reading is quite peripheral, hardly piercing the heart. And this can be a source of disappointment – often leading us to “sin” more with our thoughts of how the priest was ineffective, making us look for holes instead in the sermon next time it’s the same priest officiating the mass.
But sermons come alive with us. True, the priest is there as the leader, just as a teacher is in the classroom. They are messengers of the Word as much as we all ought to be. Perhaps the significant difference is they have entrusted their lives to a vocation that allows for them to be more familiar with ways of knowing the Lord more deeply. This said, it does not mean though that we cannot be as much a Christian as they are, or we cannot inspire the same strengthening of faith within them.
At church, I listen actively to the sermon. I make it a point that I take home with me a strong message that I can reflect on. Oftentimes, I share my reflection on the sermon on Facebook. In some instances, sermons can have loose bolts. As the priest delivers the sermon, I listen with eagerness over how the thoughts will unfold, praying that the explanation will not plateau or be anti-climactic. I always hope for the priest to hit that ball and make a homerun. Almost always they score a homerun. Sometimes though I sense the grip was weak and the hit a near miss.
So like a journalist, I supplement the sermon with my own interpretation of what the priest is trying to drive at by asking myself questions such as “So what?” I focus on the biblical text and endeavor to infuse meaning and a practical parallelism between the priest’s messages and how I should make sense of them in my life.
To my mind, there is nothing blasphemous about this appreciation of priests or practiced complementation for the sermon. In fact, it even reinforces how the church is truly a communal place. As the priest in my favorite Catholic church would say: “We come to church because we want to experience a Christian faith that is alive in a community that worships together.” And so we experience it by contributing to our own spiritual nourishment, conscious of the fact that priests too are humans and are as much in need of reinforcement as we are in pursuing that which is Christian in all aspects of life.