everyone, this is my homily for the 14th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. The readings for today's Mass can be
found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/070118.cfmhttp://usccb.org/bible/readings/070818.cfm Thanks as
always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and
your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week - God
Bless - Fr Jim
commercial... Newman Catholic at Montclair State is ending celebrating
our 50th Anniversary of the Opening of the Newman Center. We're trying
to raise $25,000 for the establishment of a scholarship in honor of one
of our previous chaplains, Fr. Art Humphrey, as well as to support our
ongoing mission and ministry to the Montclair State University
community. If you're interested, please check out: http://www.msunewman.com/50th-ann-appeal for more information and a link to donate on line. Thank You!
just had two anniversaries. It’s 11
years that I’ve been working with college students as campus minister at
Montclair State University. That’s kind
of shocking to me. I really don’t know
where the time goes as one academic year seems to evaporate and in the blink of
an eye we’re starting to prep for another one.
It’s crazy. I was also informed
that it’s 11 years ago that I created my facebook profile. I know which one of these two Mark Zuckerberg
and his employees feel is more important.
I initially laughed off that later remembrance. But the more I thought about it, it’s bizarre
to realize how much both have become personal milestones. Because while I fully expected my pastoral
assignment to become a part of my daily life, I never really thought that would
be the case for Facebook.
first heard about Facebook and it’s pre cursor Myspace the year before I ever
even thought of registering for those sites - thinking this was some fad among
the younger generation that would probably fade out as quickly as it came about
(Like Pokemon or something) I really had no idea what it was. But when I got assigned to Montclair State -
pretty quickly I saw at some of the New Student orientations that every student
group every student was on these
things. So, I reluctantly joined. First MySpace and then being told by one of
the kids I had gotten to know pretty quickly who told me “No Father, no one’s
on myspace anymore - you have to get on facebook” (wish they had told me that
before I made all these flyers I was giving out at orientation) At any rate,
its bizarre to see how much social media has become - a part of my work where I interact with students and trying to
evangelize through it; a part of my
social life where I can catch up
with friends from college & high school and keep track of extended family; even part of my personal daily routine stuff. The other day I had to buy something for my
computer and the company offered as you were checking out instead of having to
fill out the entire registration form I could just “sign in using facebook” and
be done with it in 2 seconds... (I know, all the privacy stuff I probably
shouldn’t, but who wants to enter all those fields anymore when you can be done
with a click and get this thing shipped to your door without ever having to
leave your chair?)
media is probably never going away (well Myspace did... poor Tom) But most of
these enterprises have become billion dollar corporations. And in a lot of ways, I know it’s been a good
thing and definitely changed things in my life.
But the concerns and problems that people have with all of it are
legitimate. And one that really concerns
me is seeing some of the really negative psychological effects it’s had -
especially (but not limited to) younger people.
As they (or maybe I should be saying we) try to navigate this social
media dominated world- what is it we usually see? Often times people that we know or are somehow
acquainted with sharing what appears to be all the great things that they’re
experiencing in life; all the exciting things going on with their families; all
the interesting things that they’re encountering in their jobs or in school. But a growing concern is how these types of
things are causing negative feelings among many people. For example, a guy sees on facebook a bunch
of his friends posting pictures of themselves having a great time in New York
on a Friday night, maybe they’re at the Yankee game and they just saw them
destroy the Mets or the Red Sox or something.
(Lets use a legitimate hypothetical)
Anyway, after liking the picture, he keeps seeing that picture and goes
from thinking “that’s cool - looks like they had a good time” to “I would’ve
liked to be at that game” to “I wonder why they didn’t invite me to go” to
“no one ever invites me to anything” to “I have no friends.” This type of thing happens with shares of
marriages, new jobs, college acceptances.
It sounds overly dramatic, but for many, social media posts becomes this
vicious cycle of negativity mixing envy, jealousy and then just self-loathing,
self doubt to where the person experiences depression. One study says that it’s gotten so bad that
young adults who use social media are three times as likely to have depression
or anxiety than those who don’t. And
one of the reasons is because people start looking at the world around them- or
the social media presented version of the world - and see perfect versions of
everyone around them. Think about it -
we can take 3000 pictures of the same thing to get the one where the light is
right, the smile is perfect - and if not, we can go and edit that too. Everything is presented as perfect. So its no wonder people in the silent recesses
of their hearts and souls feel discouraged, disappointed and then depressed and
anxious that they can’t ever catch up.
is why St. Paul’s words in today’s second reading really caught my
attention. In a facebook perfect world,
St Paul would present him as someone who had some of the greatest impacts on
the development of Christianity. That he
wrote the bulk of the New Testament. How
his teachings had heavy influences on the early Church evolving from merely a
sect of Judaism to an entirely new movement.
How His missionary work to those outside the Jewish faith (called the
Gentiles) helped with that enterprise and inspire the Church to understand
Jesus’ great commission to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the earth in a
much broader sense then they had initially imagined. These and a lot of other things would get
Paul a lot of likes on Facebook. This is
the perfect, idealized version of him and his life.
in today’s second reading, what did we hear?
Paul talking about what he phrased as this “thorn in the flesh” that was
tormenting him. To many of us, that
might sound like a “thorn in the side” causing us to wonder who was it that was
annoying Paul? It might have been a
person, but the phrasing and original words make it very elusive so that it
might have been a sickness, it might have been a temptation that he was
struggling with - we don’t know for sure what it was. Whatever it was though, it was bad enough
that Paul refers to it as something coming from Satan “to beat” up Paul... it causes so much suffering in Paul’s life
that three times he begs the Lord for it to be relieved of him.
prayer is answered - but not the way Paul wanted (good for us to remember, even
the Saints don’t necessarily have their prayers answered the way they hoped
for). Instead, what does God say to
Paul? “My grace is sufficient for you, for
power is made perfect in weakness.”
life wasn’t perfect.
spiritual life wasn’t perfect.
had struggles. He had set backs. He had failures. He had moments where he wondered what good
any of what he was doing was going to matter in the end? He had moments of doubt and depression. He had instances where he felt betrayed and
abandoned, and alone. Which is why it’s
good for us to reflect on that. Not to
commiserate or to wallow in a “misery loves company” way (who ever came up with
that phrase by the way - what an awful image).
His perfection is found in him acknowledging, embracing and sharing his
weaknesses - because He had to constantly go back to God, He had constantly
cry out to Jesus; He had to rely solely on the Lord alone - as the one who was
the source for any and all successes he was experiencing; as the only one who knew
Paul in the deepest recesses of his heart and soul - who would know his
pains, know his sufferings, know his failures -and gave him the grace to
persevere, the strength to endure, the power to continue.
so it is with us. We have to be real and
to be honest especially in this facebook-perfect world of ours to remember
that: No one in this world is
perfect. No one’s life is perfect. No one’s spiritual life is perfect. But Jesus is able to work in dramatic and
substantial ways if we see him for who He is and welcome him into our worlds. When people limit Jesus, or diminish him -
and his effects, then his effect is limited in their lives,- and then we might
as well wallow and look for company to be miserable with. Like those in the Gospel. Here where the ones who knew him the most,
his hometown crew - people he knew from childhood. And their stubbornness, their biases, their
egos saw Jesus as simply that carpenter’s kid, Mary’s son...
Paul had encountered Jesus in his conversion story, he recognizes Jesus as the
Son of God... He believes in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. That changes his world... It
changed the entire world. This
belief though, helps Paul to realize how wrong he had been in persecuting the
Church - how wrong he had been about those following Jesus. Paul stops his “selfies” - stops focusing on
himself and his desires and begins to listens to Jesus’ voice directing him to
follow a new course.
here, we profess those same things about Jesus.
But that voyage from the words we profess on our lips to the meaning and
belief in our hearts can sometimes be a very lengthy one. One way to speed that process up is if we can
be courageous enough to stop striving to compete with one another and this
unreal perfect presentation of ourselves and instead acknowledge our thorns,
boast of our weaknesses... and cry out to the Lord as we recognize those things. Knowing that when we finally boast of those
things, like Paul, Christ can truly dwell and transform them... and then in
our weakness, we too can become strong.