Hi everyone – and to all the Mom’s out there, a Happy and Blessed Mother’s Day! Here’s my homily for the SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – May 12, 2013. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/051213-seventh-sunday-easter.cfm
Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog and all your comments and feedback. God Bless! Fr. Jim
Fr. Jim Chern
A few months ago, the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, proposed a ban against purchasing a 20-ounce container of soda. The Mayor, through health department regulations, announced this ban on the super-sized varieties of soft-drinks as a way of continuing other policies of his that are part of his campaign to improve the health of New Yorkers (such as bans on smoking, regulating sodium and trans fats). To put it mildly it’s been controversial and the responses have been mixed.
Which is why I was intrigued when I saw a friend had shared on his Facebook timeline on Monday that had the headline that said, “Bloomberg refused a second slice of Pizza at local restaurant.” I laughed, thinking to myself, “Here we go – New Yorkers proving their no-nonsense, blunt, frank attitude – their New Yorker-ess.” And the story certainly seemed to go as I had expected: The owners of Collegno’s Pizzeria say they refused to serve him more than one piece to protest Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban, which would limit the portions of soda sold in the city.
Bloomberg was having an informal working lunch with city comptroller John Liu at the time …the two were looking over budget documents when they realized they needed more food than originally ordered. “Hey, could I get another pepperoni over here?” Bloomberg asked owner Antonio Benito. ”I’m sorry sir,” he replied, “we can’t do that. You’ve reached your personal slice limit.” Mayor Bloomberg, not accustomed to being challenged, assumed that the owner was joking. ”OK, that’s funny,” he remarked, “because of the soda thing … No come on. I’m not kidding. I haven’t eaten all morning, just send over another pepperoni.” “I’m sorry sir. We’re serious,” Benito insisted. “We’ve decided that eating more than one piece isn’t healthy for you, and so we’re forbidding you from doing it.”
I was kind of amused as I kept reading this report and imaging the embarrassing scene playing out in some local city pizzeria. But then something didn’t sound right… The story quoted Bloomberg furiously demanding his pizza as he called the man ugly names, screaming at the owner, dropping curse words as he insisted on being served his pizza. Hmmm… that sounded a bit too unbelievable. As hungry as the Mayor might have been, I couldn’t imagine him being that out of control. So I opened another tab on Firefox, googled the story and sure enough found that the entire story was a fake. It was a hoax that had been circulating online for a few days. I shared that link to the story that verified this Pizza shop incident was not true, hoping that my friend (who originally posted it) might take it down. Sadly, by Friday afternoon, there were still people sharing this untrue story online and commenting on it like it had happened.
The whole incident made me think to myself – What is it we pass along? What do we share? Because one of the things that episode taught me was how quick people are to believe anything they read online. And when people share these things online, as they go “viral” – they gain a sense of authenticity (whether they are true or not) with each share, with each comment passionately expressing anger or support to whatever it is that’s being shared.
This all came to mind praying with this week’s Gospel. On this last Sunday of Easter, as we are in this time where we celebrated Jesus’ Ascension on Thursday and anticipate the celebration of Pentecost next week, when the promised gift of the Holy Spirit comes down upon the Church – we hear a continuation of Jesus’ Prayer at the Last Supper with His Apostles. And one of the lines that jumped off the page for me was towards the beginning of the passage where Jesus says, “I pray not only for them [the apostles] but also those who will believe in me through their word.”
Why is this a concern for Jesus? Because, for good or for bad – what we do, what we say has an effect on one another. Has an effect on what we believe, how we respond – and on what we pass on to those around us. This is true not only in debates about the size of your Coca Cola, but more important things, or rather, the most important thing - eternal life – our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now I’m not against twitter, or Facebook, or posting photos of your dog or your car or the meal you’re about to eat. But we have to stop and think about what it is we’re sharing, really sharing – what part of ourselves, of our lives, of our faith in Jesus do we pass on to others – not just in online media, but in our daily lives. Do we live a life focused on the things of this world – getting trapped in the rat-race of trying to succeed at any cost? Do we take care of ourselves and our needs (and, maybe, the people we like to have around us), striving to just make our own, insular lives a little more comfortable?
Or do we truly live, believing that, by our Baptisms, we became members of Christ’s body – and that, in turn, made us citizens of Christ’s kingdom, now and for all eternity? The early Church spread and grew by the apostles sharing what they had experienced in the person of Jesus, and His love for them – and because it was so real, it spread like wildfire, across the Holy Land, then Asia and Europe, until, finally, the spark of that still ignites us, here, today.
We can make the mistake of thinking spreading our faith just means telling others about the rules, or tenets of our faith, reciting the Ten Commandments or Works of Mercy. And that is a part, a huge part of our Faith. But what makes it alive, what makes it contagious, what makes it, again, real to those around us is when we take those beliefs, those standards, those things passed down to us and flesh them out in our lives – when we share what is true and real – what is beautiful: when we touch others with kindness and mercy and love – because when we do, it is Christ acting through us – and it is no longer we alone who are doing those things, but Jesus, too. Will we allow ourselves to be His hands (and heart) and share His healing and love with our world?