Saturday, December 14, 2013

Elihu Joseph

Father Steve Cooke at St. Peter’s Parish -- Take it easy; I don’t have a Jesus agenda -- spoke of faith in a September 29th homily. Before I get into that, it warrants mentioning that the Catholicism portion of my life has been rugged at best. I hated Mass as a kid, quit attending as an adolescent, and directed my spiritual channels towards eastern thought in my 20s. The only consistencies my church-going life have ever maintained were to a) make my sister(s) laugh during service, and b) to not fall asleep during homilies.

As the months leading up to marriage dwindled, it occurred to me that my future wife was really not going to drop the church thing. She was going to make a practicing-Catholic family out of us if it killed her. She’s done just that, and I admire her for it. I haven’t always been on board -- I like to sleep in and used to loathe the notion of tithing -- but I’ve come around, and I almost look forward to it these days.


Here’s the skinny with Mass, though, if you’re not familiar: Sing, a reading, sing, a reading, sing, Gospel, homily, sing, collection, sing, Communion, peace offering, sing, conclude. Our church puts on a heck of a good Mass, and that’s worth mentioning because there are those out there that simply don’t. It’s pretty painless, and we’re always done with breakfast and chatting before football starts, so it’s a sacrifice I’ve come to accept.

The first reading features a passage from the Old Testament, the second is from the New, and the Gospel focuses on a passage that has to do with Jesus’ life. The priest, then, is supposed to incorporate the themes of the three passages into one idea and express it in a way that involves modern-day life and how humans might go about living it.

I think it would be easy to do that once. Fifty-two times a year not so much. And for consecutive years without sounding redundant? Big-time challenge. Big time. The only other minor detail is that you have to care about what you’re saying and if you’re good at it that should come across to your parishioners.

So, I can’t recall what the readings were about on September 29, but in his homily Father Steve spoke of faith. The idea of such a concept is something I’ve borderline hated for as long as I’ve been old enough to have complex opinions. People are always telling you that you should have it, or that you’ve got to rely on it, like it’s a solid stock in which you should invest. I think, though, that I’ve always been of the mindset of questioning faith’s return; the old what’s-in-it-for-me adage. But he talked about his family and a particular outing in which he and his 14 siblings ate dinner with their parents.

An older brother of his toasted their mom in such an exquisite, thankful fashion, that the rest of them moaned and C'mon'd him for having gone first with an untouchable toast. Then, several years later, at a similar meal, that same brother stood to toast her again, which prompted some eye rolls. This time, his toast was short: "Thank you," he said, "for the gift of faith."