Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time- January 31, 2010. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/013110.shtml. Thanks for reading! Oh and by the way, before you write, I know that the Gators aren’t in the NFL...it’s not easy coming up with a title for these! Thanks for reading and your reaction - Fr Jim
So next Sunday, in case you haven’t heard, there’s a little game...I know, probably most of you could care less since its New Orleans against Indianapolis, but the Super Bowl really has transcended the limited interests of people rooting for their local team. It is one of the largest viewed events every year on Television with something like 50 % of all American homes tuning into it. Because of those huge numbers, to have an advertisement on the Super Bowl is one of the most expensive things marketing people can purchase. This year, a 30 second advertisement is going to cost $2.6 million. Corporations and their ad people need to figure out, is it worth spending that kind of cash on one ad or go for something cheaper (like advertising on “The Office” for like $300,000 for a 30 second ad) Because of the expense of buying an advertisement on the Super Bowl, the pressure is on for marketing people to come up with something clever, funny, interesting that will keep people talking about it days after. To be on the top of all those lists saying what was the best commercial.
Well this week, there has been an incredible amount of interest about a Super Bowl ad that hasn’t even aired yet. It was reported Monday that Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother Pam will be featured in a pro-life commercial that will be aired during next week s Super Bowl.
That announcement caused many in the sports world, and beyond, to lose it. In his column on Wednesday, sports writer Jay Marriotti wasn’t just angry but sounded outraged. “There is a time and a place for serious crusades about life issues,” he wrote. “A commercial during the NFL’s championship game, our national holiday of fun and frolic and heavy drinking and gambling, is not one of them.”
That’s right Jay, we can’t mess with that inspiring agenda for our national holiday.
He then went on to give Tebow some unsolicited advise. “Just as you don’t have a Boy Scout convention in a casino, you do not take sides on a volatile issue pro-life during the Super Bowl. Furthermore, you don’t do it when you’re Tim Tebow and you’re in the process of convincing NFL franchises why to draft you.” Marriotti claimed that Tebow was raising eye-brows all over the NFL, where league and team execs must be conscious of public relations within their communities. He thinks Tebow is more interested in crusading than playing the game and risks blowing the chance of an NFL career. So this sports writer feels Tebow “just needs to be smarter and more strategic about picking his spots so early in his adult life, before he even has signed an NFL contract.”
Well, Tim Tebow begs to differ. “I know some people won’t agree with it,” he said, “but I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe and that I’m never shy about it. I don’t feel very preachy about it, but I do stand up for what I believe. Unfortunately in today’s society, not many athletes seem to do that. I always stand for something.”
The reason for that may be that the issue hits a little closer to home for him. When his mother was expecting Tim back in 1987, her doctors advised her to terminate the pregnancy because of a life-threatening illness. She choose otherwise, which is why he even has a chance in the NFL. It seems Tim Tebow is willing to risk rejection by the NFL for being honest and publicly vocal about his personal convictions.
Tim Tebow could probably go onto ESPN as a special guest commenting on the Super Bowl or football in general like “Brett Favre is the greatest player in the NFL” - well Brett Favre still doesn’t have a ring... Or “The Jets should have been in the Super Bowl” - well they’re not... and people might have disagreed with him or laughed or whatever... that would have been okay. But as soon as he ventured into something bigger, greater than what they’re used to, he’s been ridiculed, and even had his career in a sense “threatened.” After all that is all Tim Tebow is - a Football player, so that’s really all he should talk about, right?
There’s a similar thing happening to Jesus in today’s Gospel. Things had started out well enough. Today’s passage picks up where last weeks ended - Jesus had read this beautiful prophecy from Isaiah who foretold that the Messiah that God would send would bring Glad Tidings - the restoration of sight to the blind, liberty and release to those captured and imprisoned... The words of promise of a day of radical freedom that comes from knowing that you are a beloved child of God was being proclaimed to Jesus’ home town crowd. And Jesus says “I’m the one to bring this to you.”
That’s when things start to go wrong. That’s when the crowd turns on him. Jesus? Really? The carpenter? Joseph’s son? Who’s he kidding? The God who parted the red sea and fed us that miraculous food of Manna when we most needed it, that same God is going to free us from the oppression we’re experiencing through Him???? You almost get the sense that they were laughing or ridiculing him saying “ah carpernter - perhaps you haven’t seen the massive roman guards and authorities walking around - you and your fishermen friends - that’s cute and all... but come on.”
Their vision of what the Messiah was going to do was as small, narrow and limited as their vision of Who the Messiah could be. So Jesus points out to them with those references (that many of us probably don’t understand) - about Elijah, this widow, lepers... He was calling them out and saying to his neighbors, his friends (or perhaps, former friends) - you’re making the same mistake our ancestors did. Taking for granted that God is God - he can do anything, anyway he wishes to accomplish it. Elijah, the widows, the lepers were all examples of how God did miraculous things to “foreigners” (those not with the Jews) and because they were so humble, so grateful to what God was doing - they were open to His action and His presence and God did miraculous things because of that humility.
The hometown didn’t like hearing that. They in fact threatened Jesus looking to do bodily harm to him, simply because they fixated so much on their narrow view of who they thought Jesus was - just Joseph’s son the carpenter - they couldn’t imagine that God’s truth could be spoken through him. Yes they take him to the edge of a cliff wanting to, as the Gospel puts it “hurl him down headlong.”
We who followed Jesus off the edge of that cliff need to realize that we continue to follow him - to the passion, to the cross, to the grave. The world will continue to reject the truth and those who proclaim it and attempt to live it. As we embrace Him, and receive Him and allow Jesus to embrace and receive us Jesus is leading us, calling us to greater things and that we’re trying to continue to respond to Him. If we’re looking for the admiration or the validation of the world around us, our colleagues and friends - then we’re going to be sadly disappointed. Just as Tim Tebow has discovered (if he didn’t know it already) most people want everyone on Super Bowl Sunday to sit back, watch the game, have a beer - compare which beer commercial is better than the other one than to do the hard work of entertaining a serious moral issue that affects the very moral fabric of our nation.
It’s really not a hard choice, though, when you think about it - do you want to be a part of the crowd looking to toss Jesus over a cliff, or do you want to be the one who follows him not just to the cross - but to the glorious, resurrected life he promises? Like Tebow, we should always stand for something.
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern
Hi everyone - here’s my homily for SUNDAY JANUARY 24, 2010 - The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time. The readings can be found at http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings/012410.shtml .
Thanks so much for reading and your comments. I’m sorry if I don’t get a chance to respond to all the messages and all, but do read them all and greatly appreciate you sharing where you’re from, how you found this blog, etc... God Bless!
So I got this email the other day - it was really unexpected, incredible news. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was as I’m reading this message on my screen. And now I cannot find it. I don’t know what I did... I KNOW I didn’t delete it, there’s no way I’d delete it. But I’ve gone up and down in that list of emails in my Inbox, I don’t know how many times. I’ve looked through all my other email files. It’s not in the Spam file, the Junk Mail file (I don’t know why I have BOTH of those, but... it’s not in either of them ) I even looked through all the other files - you know the sent file, or the drafts file to see if by mistake I moved it there...It’s not there either. So it’s gone, right? It’s just so frustrating because I keep trying to figure out HOW DID I LOSE THIS MESSAGE! The last thing I remember was that I hit the “X” in the corner to minimize the email, but I know I was saving it... it was too important, and all I needed to do was get some information for the guy who contacted me. I was going to get right back to it. I’m so disappointed, because I don’t know how the guy found me in the first place and now this opportunity is gone because I lost the message.
You see, it seems that this prince from Nigeria was reaching out to me, he just got this HUGE inheritance and somehow found my name and email. If I could help him transfer his funds to the US, he’d give me $100 million - all I needed to do was email him my bank account. I don’t know - it’s so frustrating – I guess you win some, lose some...
It’s amazing - that “Nigerian - Email scam” or variations of it has been circulating in email boxes for years and years now. Most people read these and realize it’s a scam because they’ve heard the stories of people who’ve gotten the same email, believed it and then have been swindled out of thousands of dollars, some hitting $10,000 or more (which I guess, in light of the millions you’re going to receive seems a drop in the bucket)
We’re understandably skeptical people. We hear or read something like that and, sure, we wish it were true. Who couldn’t do a lot with a $100 million dollars? But most people learn pretty quickly the old adage, if it’s too good to be true, than it probably is.
For some when they first heard the words Jesus is proclaiming in tonight’s gospel, that’s what came to mind. “Yeah, right - this guy Jesus - he’s the one God was promising would bring glad tidings to the poor. He’s the one who would proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, THIS GUY IS THE ONE WHO IS GOING to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Yeah, right - this carpenter - What’s the scam? some thought.
There’s an interesting thing though about this whole gospel reading though. Before we heard Jesus giving this first sermon, we are at the very beginning of the Gospel of Luke. I have to admit that in the past, I’ve just kind of ignored that and went to the second part - the (in my mind) “more important” part of the Gospel. But if we take a second look at it, we hear St. Luke, the author, introducing himself. In his mind, he’s not setting out to write a Gospel. He’s writing a letter (a very long letter!) to this guy Theophilus (who by referring to him as “the most excellent” probably was a Roman official).
Luke says right from the start that he wasn’t an actual eyewitness to the events of Jesus Christ. But he just as quickly he says that he’s not just telling a story or recounting historical events that other people say happened, he says that those events “have been fulfilled among US - Just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us...” Luke includes himself as a witness himself. He reassures his reader and us, those blessed to hear his words tonight that IT’S TRUE... ALL OF THIS IS TRUE.
Luke isn’t some anonymous Nigerian prince offering lofty promises to unsuspecting victims, trying to pull some scam on people. He’s explaining how he too has encountered Jesus Christ. So he’s putting himself on the line. He says - I’ve experienced it too. I’ve experienced the healing, I’ve seen the transformations, I’m here to share the glad tidings with you. That Jesus is the one we’ve all been waiting for. God’s son has come among us.
People continue to have encounters with Christ. And when they do, it’s beautiful to witness how the blindness is gone, the freedom they seek is found - the promises that are written in the deepest recesses of the hearts are fulfilled. Just this past Friday, (I have to give Lino Rulli, “The Catholic Guy” credit for sharing this story on the air, a few hours after it) was just starting to become a major news story that people, particularly sports writers are shaking their heads about.
This guy, Grant Desme, he is one of the top prospects for Major League Baseball. He was the MVP in the Arizona Fall Ball league; had a sensational season last year on a minor league team, was considered one of the top prospects for the Oakland A’s (I know, it’s the Oakland A’s, but come on, even this Yankee fan can appreciate that it’s a major league team...) Well on Friday, this 29 year old, who the Assistant General Manager for the A’s said “was on the brink” of becoming a bona-fide major leaguer; announced that he was “retiring.” Why? So that he could enter the seminary to begin studies for the priesthood. This Assistant General Manager was almost stunned into disbelief talking about it. He was saying “So few players get to the point where he’s at. In my perspective, the guy could be a priest when he’s 35 or 60. … Here’s a guy who’s so unbelievably close to making it [in baseball].”
But, Desme explained "I'm doing well in baseball,But I had to get down to the bottom of things, to what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life.” He continued: “Baseball is a good thing, but that felt selfish of me when I felt that God was calling me more. It took awhile to trust that and open up to it and aim full steam toward him. I love the game, but I'm going to aspire to higher things.”
Tonight’s Gospel when we focus on what Jesus is saying, it contains so much promise, so much hope, so much... that we tend not to believe it can actually happen to us, that our lives can be much different than wherever and whatever our situations present to us right now. Different voices try to explain this away - saying it’s a metaphor or it’s an ideal to aspire to. The more cynical parts of us wonder whether it’s just a scam... Baloney - don’t fall for it.
Because St. Luke, Grant Desme and countless others share their testimony that the promises of eternal riches are truer than our greatest imaginations can ever conceive of. Make sure you don’t lose this message....
Posted by Fr. Jim Chern