Tomorrow night I and two other Jesuits (Chris Johnson and Drew Marquard) will launch a new group here at Fordham University. Entitled "Gospel Explorations" it is a group that prays over and reflects upon that Sunday's gospel. Meeting on Monday evenings from 8:00-9:00, we are hoping to build a community of students who desire to spend time praying and discussing the gospel and finding ways to integrate the Word into their lives.
Why is this necessary?
Having worked with college students for several years, I have no doubt that they are sincere and genuine thinkers. Even their oft-quoted, yet jejune, "Well, I'm spiritual but not religious" betrays an impulse present in each of them that drives them to seek some form of deeper connection with the Holy Other.
The problem, particularly in a Catholic context, is that these students are absolutely starved for spiritual nourishment. In fact, in my limited experience of traveling to various parish churches (when I had to travel for music especially) I can't tell you how many times I walked away wondering how people endured the homilies they listened to each week. Just last weekend, for instance, I celebrated the Eucharist in a local church where I and about ninety others heard a homily inveighing against all those persons who didn't go to Mass. Strange...a homily about mass attendance delivered to people who attend Mass.
There are those who say that too much attention is paid to the Liturgy of the Word and that we have downplayed the centrality of the Liturgy of the Eucharist (as though they were opposed to each other). As I see it, the liturgy of the Word is a moment where the Living Word of God has a viable chance of breaking into our hardened hearts, piercing the layers of sadness and indifference and entering into our lives in a real and transformative way. Think of it as fertilizing the field or creating a beautiful frame for a piece of art - the Liturgy of the Word should be an arena of encounter which guides us into the great Mystery of God-with-Us made really present in the Eucharist.
In short, we created this group in order to give the students a fighting chance of finding some way to see how God's Word is relevant in their lives. Of course, I think we do a better job than most here at Fordham and I find that the homilies each week are quite good. Nevertheless, I can't help but think that the creation of a group that invites the students to read, pray over, and discuss the Gospel a week in advance will be of great help to them.
I post this because I think it is in the best interest of those interested in experiencing wholly the liturgy to take the time each week to read the week's readings. A simple activity, really, but taking just five to ten minutes each day to read that Sunday's gospel and then (perhaps) to imagine how YOU would preach it. How would you make God's word relevant to you and to people like yourself?
Think of the ministerial potential: first, you'd have a sense of how the Word connects to your life and experience. Second, as you gain greater insight into how you are challenged and inspired by the gospel, you may find yourself in a position to share with others from your growing riches. Third, each week you could take your struggles and joys, fears and hopes, to the text and ask for illumination and guidance.
That's my preachiness for the day. I'm hoping to have a clip from our Candidate Weekend showing Michael Magree, SJ and I playing for our "Coffee House." It's one of the few clips actually showing me playing the accordion!