Hi everyone – here’s my homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – SEPTEMBER 21, 2014 – given at Newman Catholic at Montclair State University (www.MSUNEWMAN.com) The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/092114.cfm.  I’m really grateful for all those who visit this blog each week; for your comments and feedback and sharing it on Facebook, twitter, reddit, etc.  It’s so cool to see on the stat counter a “virtual illustartion” of the New Evangelization.  Have a great week – God Bless!  Fr. Jim


Last week I was in my car and flipping the channels on the radio looking for something to listen to. I happened to stumble on one of my favorite songs (from my college days), “Glycerine” by the rock band Bush – or what I thought was the song.  It turned out they were just playing a clip of it during an interview with Bush front-man/song writer Gavin Rossdale. To be honest, I rarely listen to celebrity interviews. They seem to be so scripted either to promote and spin something for me to buy, see, get worked up over – or they tend to get talking about some silly personal things in which I usually lose interest pretty quickly. But when someone like Gavin Rossdale starts to talk about the genesis for his music; the meanings or inspirations of the lyrics to the songs — those types of interviews I find fascinating. Which is what caused me to stick with this one.  A few minutes in, Gavin shared how his hit song “Machinehead” — (the one that starts out with the loud guitar riffs and the words “Breath in, Breath out…”) – was really a song about losing one’s ego – I never realized that’s what the song was about.  So the interview was interesting to me.

A few minutes later though it turned more gossipy.  I normally disconnect with this kind of information, but I had no idea that Gavin was married to Gwen Stefani (of the band No doubt) – that they’ve been married for about 12 years… and they have three children.  I was just getting ready to change the channel when Gavin started to share a really personal story.  He was asked how he deals with all the tabloid/papparazzi stuff.  He said that just a few weeks ago he was on vacation in Italy with his wife and children and on this one particular evening they were at this beautiful place.  There was an outdoor fire going which was cooking their delicious nighttime dinner.   He said he looked around at the table at his wife and kids and it was a moment he felt was almost complete perfection.  Foolishly he saw an email come in on his phone and checked it and someone had forwarded him a copy of OK magazine that had a picture of him and his wife on the cover with the headline ”Split!”  Gavin noted that this happened to be released on a day when a plane got shot down and couldn’t believe that this story – which was untrue – would even get traction.

What got me was hearing how painful this whole episode was to him, and to his wife.  He said not only
wasn’t it true but it infuriated him just seeing how people were almost wanting or wishing for him and his wife’s marriage to fail.  I had to admit that I really felt badly for them. Here they are – two highly successful music people (who were successful independently).  Somehow despite the fame and the crazy temptations that celebrities face, they find each other, marry and have a family.  Probably not without numerous challenges and difficulties.  And a moment where they are simply enjoying those blessings is disrupted by people who seem to want to tear them down.  Why?  Quite simply – jealousy.  That seems to be what drives a lot of the TMZ/Entertainment Weekly/celebrity based “media.”   Sadly there has to be a tremendous amount of public consumption for it otherwise people wouldn’t report it (if people aren’t tuning in or buying these magazines, they would disappear).  In fact there’s so much public consumption that even “legitimate” news organizations will delve into speculative, salacious reporting.   Celebrities and other public figures are held up as people who seem highly successful – excelled in some area, have financial wealth or security, have power or influence – and that drive, that desire among many of us to be like that – to be “Famous” – rich, popular… when we don’t achieve that same level of success, it turns to anger.

Just look at the reality competition shows like “American Idol” or “The Voice” – there’s this widespread belief that we’re owed, we deserve success. And because we’ve bought into that lie and fail to recognize how uniquely talented some of these singers, songwriters, actors truly are – because we think “anyone can do it” followed by “why am I not enjoying that level of fame or success” – these “media-reports” feed on our jealousy of that success. The anger is demonstrated in picking people apart – rooting for their failure. They are being bullied for their success.

This isn’t a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. Look at the effect of Jealousy in today’s Gospel.  This parable is probably people’s  least  favorite parable – at least in my unscientific study or rather experience.  No matter how many times or ways I’ve preached on it, people will inevitably come out after Mass and say “You know Father, I still don’t think it’s right…it’s not fair…”

What’s not right? That this landowner hires people at dawn, at nine in the morning, at noon, at three in the afternoon and even at five o’clock – and eventually pays them all the same amount – they get a full days pay.   There’s almost this internal trigger that’s set off in people’s minds saying “that’s just not right” (as if the landowner was taking an opinion poll)  The people who work all day gripe, they complain – they become jealous of these late comers.  Probably there was more criticisms being offered – those people must’ve been lazy not to even worry about finding a job till late in the day – and now look they just waltz in here and here I’ve been working all day.  Somehow, they believe they’ve been wronged, diminished, or slighted by these late comers being the beneficiaries of an extremely generous landowner.

What makes this even more unpopular for people is when they recognize that Jesus is using this parable to illustrate His generosity, His lavish love for humanity.  That someone could come to know, come to follow Jesus much later in life – and still experience the same eternal kingdom that we have been longing for.  They get to enjoy the same blessings of this heavenly eternal reward that we’ve been denying ourselves and not conforming to the things of this world for some time in marking ourselves as citizens of that kingdom already.

The good news that is so often missed as we debate this Gospel is how Jesus looks at each of us as individuals.  He knows when we’re struggling and trying.  He knows when we think we’re getting one by him – or found a loop hole.  He sees when we’re making a genuine, sincere effort… just as clearly as when we’re acting like two year olds, stomping our feet at the perception that they’ve been slighted because someone else got a sip more milk in their cup than we did…

And in all those highs or lows – Jesus isn’t looking at you and comparing you to someone else.  He’s not bringing an account ledger out like some Santa Claus with a “Naughtcy vs Nice list” (that’s a whole other story. “You better watch out….”). Jesus is loving you as his brother and sister.  He’s loving you, knowing all the ups, downs, the failures, the successes, the fears, the dreams, the doubts, the triumphs that are there…  He’s seeing past those times where you’ve rejected him – longing for that moment where you turn to Him-  and recognize Him and His Father and the Holy Spirit’s amazing action in your life that is the source of the gifts, the talents, the opportunities, the very breath of life that we breath.  And glorify Him with all that we have – in all that we do.

This is just one side of the Newman Center at University of
Illinois, Champaign… Can’t get the whole thing in one pic!

A few years ago I was able to go and visit the University of Illinois in Champagin, Illinois Newman Center. To put it simply, it’s referred to as the Catholic Disney land – and for good reason.  It has a 600 bed dorm, a full chapel that seats over 600, a campus ministry center with recreation center, a cafeteria – full staff… It is freaking amazing!!  Coming back here, there was a moment (a moment that sometimes re-emerges) where I’m tempted to wallow and say “they’re so lucky” and “geez, we just have this one old house…(now it would be these two old houses)”  I become the green-eyed monster.  And you know what – It’s easy to be jealous.   And there are times I want to go for that easy option.  To be jealous of what God is doing in someone’s life and ignoring what he’s doing in mine.

In doing that – I miss the opportunities that are before me. I am blinded by the jealousy that perhaps He’s wanting to use me and other people to do something new, something different, something that will glorify Him in a whole new way that I can’t conceive of.

We tend to obsess at things that we believe we’re missing out on, that we somehow believe we’re owed, even thinking that God has somehow skimped on us… and when we play that game, we miss how these could be challenges He wants us to overcome. That there are struggles we need to endure that will make us stronger.

In the end – what does someone’s Newman Center; or Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s marriage have to do with me and my life.  You and I – each of us workers in the Lord’s vineyard – we have an incredibly unique opportunity; a gift – to work for a generous, loving landowner. Instead of focusing and comparing how God is blessing another, count your blessings and be aware that there is a purpose specifically for you with all that God gives you. Don’t let the green-eyed monster keep you from experiencing the fullness of God’s plan. His grace, mercy and love for you, and every one else, are boundless. The kingdom is big enough for all and there is nothing better.