Invitation to a Paradigm Shift
I am a liturgical curmudgeon. Anyone who knows me will tell you so. They will describe me in those terms: "Karl? Yeah, great guy. Surprisingly good athlete. Master of many arcane arts. Loved by women, admired by men, feared by bad guys everywhere. He's also a liturgical curmudgeon." Those who describe me thus are perceptive, for I am all those things. I complain about bad liturgy.
But, when I complain, I am sometimes greeted with the response, "Well, at least we have Jesus." In other words, at least Catholic Churches have the Real Presence. Despite bad music, silly liturgy, poor prayer, ugly buildings, or indifferent preaching, all is well because at least we "get Jesus."
Stop and think for a minute about the vacuity of this. At least we have Jesus? This somehow makes everything else acceptable? Let me be parabolic:
In the gospel reading in the Roman lectionary this past Sunday, it was the story of the king who was throwing a wedding banquet, but couldn't find guests to come to the feast. Those invited to come refuse, and others are called. But of these others, one is thrown out, because he doesn't have the proper wedding attire. There are two key points: that the Eucharist is a wedding, and that one can be thrown out for unworthy behavior.
Imagine, then, that you are invited to a wedding: you put on your best bib overalls, shine up your work boots, scrawl out a card with crayons and attach it to a crisp new one dollar bill. Then you go to the wedding. As they throw you out, you complain, "But at least they got married! What does it matter?"
It does matter. The fact that "we have Jesus" should not be an excuse, but a vocation, a call to do great things. Our music should be as good as we can make it, because we have Jesus. Our liturgy should be as holy and reverent as we can make it, because we have Jesus. Our prayers should be well-written, our buildings should be so beautiful that one can't help but praise God, and our preaching should be on fire for the Lord, because we have Jesus.
See the paradigm shift? We take an excuse and make it an occasion.
*Disclaimer: in no way do I wish to minimize the many graces that God sees fit to grant even through bad liturgy. I know because I received them myself. God is good and works through many channels, but let's not use that as an excuse.