I’M A PILGRIM in constant search for fellow journeyers in this transient world to share values with. Life is too short to waste on trifles so I try to live according to Christian scruples. If I cannot practice what I pray for, I try to provide testimony instead of preach. I know better than to pretend I have what it takes so leave the last task up to priests.
I die a little, for cringe and squirm no longer help, when men of the cloth, up in the ambo, fail to fulfill their evangelizing mission and resort to filling and fulfilling their personal cause. When, after the Gospel-reading, they drop the bible and proceed to render a homily that veers away from the Word because transformed into a proclamation of their personalities or, worse, circumstances. Nothing wrong with personalities except that, as Rev. Fr. Robert Barron says, when they are up there, it is supposed to be God speaking through them.
One priest tried to explain to his congregation the pregnancy of Elizabeth, whom Mary visited, which Zechariah refused to believe, because he and Sarah were both of an advance age. That should have been explained simply as, like Sarah’s carrying of Isaac, God’s infinite mystery. He chose instead to be contemporary and employed may asim pa to describe the mystical condition of Mary’s cousin. I thought the phrase belittling, sexually offensive and deserved to be shared by men gathered round a rowdy libation, if not a locker room. Not by parishioners who rose early to relish the solemnity of a Simbang Gabi.
Another priest tried to tackle the same pregnancy in another light. Totally unexpected, he informed the faithful that he has witnessed a woman giving birth. And, he declared, it is true what they say about it as magubat. And, as if to convince his audience that he knows whereof he spoke, he added that he has seen maraming kagubatan. As if his revelation would be reinforced by increasing its shock value. It was sad to hear for the second time a woman’s nobly procreative state treated like a laboratory specimen by a holy man, supposedly the alter ego of Christ. It was pathetic to rub in the ribald relevance, if it were at all relevant.
The third priest indulged neither in pregnancy nor childbirth, not that we’ve heard enough from the first two, but indulge he did. In politics. By lambasting the presidentiables as killers, brain-damaged, crooks, etc. (I started praying in order to tune him out.) He ranted in earnest, egged on by his responding, unsuspecting audience, who must’ve been awe-struck to see the running priest stationary, but spouting invectives he normally reserved for the street, and up close. I never felt more sympathetic for the pulpit. And to Cardinal Chito Tagle, who has warned his priests against celebrating Mass at political events and campaigns. The move, necessary to safeguard the non-partisan stance of the Church and the sacredness of the sacraments, emphasizes that “The Eucharist is the source and sign of unity. Its celebration should not be seen as favoring or endorsing particular candidates, organizations or parties.” What the priest did was not contrary to the Cardinal’s circular but it was not his province to use the ambo as the platform for his political views. If even a positive endorsement is deemed inimical by the circular, a negative attack would be tantamount to an uncharitable act by a man of God. The Eucharist is a holy place for thanksgiving, not for bashing. Even during my brief brush with HaPag Layko at St. Vincent School of Theology, the priest-professors there never used, in their social teaching, graphic, degrading and derogatory terms.
I thought the Hover-boarding priest deserved respect for owning up to his grandstanding at Mass and, later, apologizing for his misdeed, admitted grave by the Diocese of San Pablo. He was suspended and is probably – it is prayed – doing penance for his overzealousness. Would not the others, unscathed by superior sanction, reflect on their self-assumed righteousness.
I also remember priests who seemingly want to get the Mass over and done with and do their homilies quicker than you can say And with your spirit. And I am left with my jaw hanging and reminding myself to lift him up asap.
Those priests have gone to schools better than my 33 college units and tucked in their white sleeves post-graduate or masteral degrees. For what? Using the pulpit as an outlet for their private thoughts? Out loud? One could imagine the run of their conversation when imbibing tongue-loosening liquid. The seed has been planted. I would always associate those priests with their predilection for vernacular banter laced with sensual if condescending asides. Unless they reconsider their resolve.
As I lament their ostensibly unconscious mindset, I pray. That the Holy Spirit touch them and bring them back to light. That they recant, if not renounce, their bawdy, if cavalier, benediction.