The Unresponsive

19 September 2007 Wednesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 7, 31-35 The Unresponsive

Jesus describes his generation as unresponsive and uninterested. John and Jesus taught the same message, but their style of presentation were different. Their lifestyle was also diverse: John lived in the desert But whatever way the message was delivered — through the style of John or Jesus — they would not listen. That is why Jesus compared it to children who did not dance when a flute was played (the flute was for weddings and celebrations) or mourned when a dirge or a funeral song was sang.

This passivity is also seen in many worshiping communities today. But let us use an example close to home. We have explained the many liturgical changes in Vatican II, exhorting all Christian communities: “In the restoration and development of the Sacred Liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is the paramount concern, for it is the primary, indeed the indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit” (Sacrosanctum Concilium II.141). We give credit to our liturgical committees who tried to make the mass better. Many choirs tried to make their songs accessible to the congregation. They practice more often than usual: twice weekly for many UP choirs.

However, we remain passive, lethargic and unresponsive. At mass, we stare blankly and appear impatient. We want to finish the mass as quickly as possible. Kung ikaw ang pari, parang utang-na-loob mo pang nandoon sila. When Paul wrote to Timothy that in the event of a delay, Timothy knows how to behave in the house of God, we have mistakenly interpreted acceptable church behavior as rigid, stiff and inflexible; as many socialites carry themselves in weddings when they are all made up.

Why are we unresponsive? Primarily, we were used to a mass where there was minimal participation. Everything was focused on the altar and the priest. But Vatican II tells us that the presence of God is also seen in the people at mass, turning the spotlight on the congregation, encouraging audience participation. Like the noontime show Wowowee: it gained popularity because it actively involved the audience. We enjoy change and variety. I understand that in a church of millions with different cultural backgrounds and affiliations, to promote orthodoxy is to have some uniform way of doing things. We do have them, except we tend to make it boring. Liturgical norms, even in history, have incorporated the arts to add life and zest to worship. Thus, if we put in some drums & percussions, some dancing as Catholics in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe do, perhaps we could make some of the rigid churchgoers to begin enjoying the mass; or perhaps, influence some priests to put in some excitement. After all, Christian faith is about hope, joy and love. It is about celebration!

There is, however, one more thing that we can reflect on. It is also possible that God has been doing a lot of things for us to notice Him; but our attention is somewhere else. Various distractions are part of modern life, but it could turn our senses away from the call and presence of God. We are unresponsive because we don’t notice the presence of God.

Perhaps, we begin to train ourselves in quiet prayer. When we are accustomed to silence, we get to manage our distractions and thereby focusing ourselves on the voice of God.

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