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3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Back in November 2020, the world heard that the actor Dave Prowse, who

played Darth Vader in the Star Wars films, had died. He was 6 ft 6, and so he

had the height and presence for the role, but there was one problem: he had a

Bristolian accent, so someone else did Darth Vader’s voice. When you hear

Dave Prowse speak, his accent isn’t that pronounced, but just imagine if it had

been a lot stronger. The tension builds in a major scene in the film. Darth

Vader stands up, and he says: “’Ere! I be Darth Vader – an’ you be afraid of i’!” It wouldn’t have had quite the same impact, and it wouldn’t command the same respect and fear.


God is not an evil film character. But there is the theme running through the

readings today of ridicule versus respect. In the first reading, it says: “You

shall not utter the name of the Lord your God to misuse it, for the Lord will not

leave unpunished the man who utters his name to misuse it”. As we were

seeing last week, looking at “hallowed be thy name”, respect for God, and for

holy places, persons and things is vitally important. This was also understood,

in a slightly different way, during the Protestant Reformation. It is claimed, for

example, that the children’s song The Hokey Cokey was put together as a

mockery of the Mass, although in the 20th century it seems that others have

then written new versions of it, and the Americans and Canadians seem to

know it by a slightly different name. In Leeds, at one of the monasteries, after

its partial destruction, the road was diverted to travel right down the middle of

the church, to put it totally to secular use. In other parts of the country, bells

that used to be rung at the elevation of the Host and chalice were re-used as

bells for cattle. In different ways the Catholic faith was ridiculed and

associations with holiness were broken so that no-one would take it seriously

ever again.


Thankfully, we don’t have that kind of open animosity today, apart from

perhaps one or two small exceptions. And, if like me, you took part in singing

and acting The Hokey Cokey as a child, or maybe you taught it to your children

in all innocence, you don’t need to go to confession – it was an innocent child’s

game, and not used as a taunt song against Catholics. But we have to be

careful how we behave, because it then affects how others think about us and

our faith. I can’t remember for sure which theologian it was, but I remember

someone saying that, when he was growing up as a Protestant, he was told that

Catholics were not Christians, and he believed it. In his experience, they were

the ones who drank the most, swore the most and so on, so he didn’t see how

they could be Christians. On the other hand, take an opposite example:

someone told me once that, even though she wasn’t a Catholic, when she was

in trouble or need of assistance, she would to turn to a Catholic priest for help,

because her previous experience had been that they had been much more

helpful than those from her own religion.


In the Gospel we see one of the few times when Our Lord is particularly angry,

and you could say that He takes things into His own hands, forcing the money

changers out of the Temple. The disciples remember the words of scripture:

“Zeal for your house will devour me” as He says to those buying and selling:

“Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market”.

Respect for God and God’s house means it shouldn’t be used as a place for

exploiting one’s neighbour. Furthermore, many Catholic churches are

consecrated, which means they are dedicated over to God, for the worship of

God alone – they are not to be used for other purposes. I know of a university

chaplaincy where they have a hall, which is used for Mass, but also for other

functions such as dinners and other celebrations, but a hall is different to a

consecrated church. And even if a Catholic church isn’t technically a

consecrated church, still, given that it is used for the worship of God and the

Blessed Sacrament is reserved there in the tabernacle, then it needs to be set

aside as a place for God. The Lord, who is in glory in heaven is also there in

the tabernacle, so we should act like it.


I began by mentioning that the actor who played Darth Vader had a Bristolian

accent, which they thought didn’t give the right gravitas to the main villain of

Star Wars. Following a similar logic, we need to make sure that the way we

conduct ourselves reflects the seriousness of our faith. When we pray

“hallowed be thy name”, people will want to see that we mean it.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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