The following is an excerpt of a homily I delivered on the 3rd Sunday of Lent. If you’d like to hear the complete audio plus a reflection on the content, please listen to my podcast “The Discerning Catholic” which can be found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.
“We’ve always done it this way.”
“We’ve always allowed the money changers to have some space in the Court of the Gentiles during Passover. The crowds are so big, how else are we going to get it done? People need to get a half shekel to pay their Temple tax, they need to sacrifice their oxen or their turtle doves. We’ve always done it this way, who are you, Jesus, to change things? Who are you to demand something greater of us!”
“We’ve always done it this way” The Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent, in which Jesus rebukes the ongoing business in the Temple during Passover, demonstrates that “we’ve always done it this way” is an obstacle to evangelization. The Court of the Gentiles is flooded with pilgrims and money changers and believers, and yet their activity is actually making it more difficult for the Gentiles to get a glimpse of what the faith is all about. If we are not careful, we can flood our own parishes with practices that are stuck in their ways, and in some ways can be obstacles to others joining in. “We’ve always had this kind of music,” “we’ve always had this kind of event.” “We’ve always done things this way.”
Church attendance in dwindling. Faith in Christ is free-falling. It is time for us to review those practices we’ve always done and talk to the Lord about them. And we must do this at the personal level first. What are those practices that we’ve always done that are actually an obstacle to our love of God and our relationship with him? These might be behavioral habits; we get on our phone first thing in the morning completely shutting off any opportunity for quiet reflection and prayer. These can be relational habits; we speak first rather than listen, we get defensive rather than challenging ourselves to be vulnerable and truly hear another person’s story.
But this must go beyond the personal level for our faith communities to stop surviving and start thriving. I’m not a pastor, I’m not even an associate pastor right now, but I am a vocation director. So, the Word of God compels me to look at the way “we’ve always done things” in vocations and discern where the will of God stands in the pecking order. How can I become the most effective evangelist in the way that I promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life? I am shocked to say that the website that I helped create does not get as much traffic as I thought it would. It is a really neat website and is easy to navigate (jacksonpriests.com if you are interested), but the next generation doesn’t really go to websites apparently. And that’s ok, I need to figure out other ways to connect with them instead of doubling down on “we’ve always done it this way.”
Jesus wants us to get stirred up. He is looking to stir up the temple authorities and show them that the way “we’ve always done things” isn’t going to get it done. We have to die to ourselves. That’s how we become the best spouses, the best parents, the best priests, etc. Jesus is headed to the cross as soon as he turns over the first table. He is going to be rejected by many for his actions and his words, but he knows that others will be enlivened, will be inspired, and shaken out of their “luke-warmity.” We must willingly head to the cross ourselves, with confidence that the Lord will not abandon us.
Prediscernment Prayer Nights
Tuesday, March 16 – Our Lady of Victories Cleveland, 6-7 p.m.
Wednesday, March 17 – Christ the King Southaven, 7-8 p.m.