Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – July 24, 2016. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072416.cfm Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog; for sharing it on Facebook, twitter, Reddit and elsewhere on the Internet – and for all your feedback and comments. God Bless You and Yours and have a great week! Fr Jim
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Some random night I was skimming through Facebook – reading a variety of statuses that were absolutely essential for me to read -including a friend ranting about how some birds are waking him up at 5 in the morning each day, a student asking “Why did I think eating 2 boxes of fiber one carmel bars was a good idea?” and someone sharing a very important link to a story on NBC revealing that Cap’N Crunch is not really a captain (glad that the journalists out there are tackling the really hard stories in investigative journalism…) Interspersed with these posts they mix in advertisements. So out of nowhere I see this post that had one line that was hard to ignore:
Our underwear will change the way you look and feel about yourself
That’s a pretty bold claim. Curiosity no doubt gets a lot of people to click it. Heck, it can even disturb a priest enough to wonder – Can underwear really do that? It might be made of a different material, manufactured in a unique way that can be new to you. But I wonder after wearing them once or twice, (and hopefully laundering them in between those uses) – how many people would recognize that life has pretty much stayed the same as it was before they ever heard of this new underwear.
Marketing executives who create these campaigns are good in knowing how to target their goods to their potential customers. How to pitch things in such a way that it somehow addresses something bigger that you desire, something you need, something you want. These underwear advertising executives are trying to be clever, catch people’s attention, and curiosity – which is pretty impressive when you think about it. How do you make something so ordinary, so routine stand out?
By tapping into deeper desires of humanity:
that there’s some part of ourselves that we want to experience change in –
something that affects the way we look and feel about ourselves –
that we can experience that…
Hopefully all of us here at least realize that some underwear can’t do that. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that an underwear company can make that ridiculous claim because they know that people are searching for that something… Desperately longing, searching for that thing – whatever that thing is – that can accomplish a radical change in their lives that alters the way they look and feel about themselves.
In this Gospel, however, what Jesus offers us has the potential to do just that… change the way humanity does look and feel about itself. We just heard St. Luke’s version of “The Our Father” – The words of this prayer are so memorized and known that it was observed that on Easter Sunday at some point over 1.5 billion people were uttering them that day alone. That familiarity makes us lose sight of how incredibly powerful this prayer is– and especially how incredibly radical this prayer was that day Jesus first uttered it.
Up until the moment when Jesus first utters this prayer – and commanding us that this is
how we are to pray – humanity never referred to God (or‘gods’) as Father. Even our Jewish ancestors, while they acknowledged God as the “Father of their nation” they never went so far as to address Him personally in prayer as “Father.” Dr. Scott Hahn explained in a lecture called Allah or Abba – where he was pointing out one of the major differences, even obstacles, between Muslims and Christians discussions – one major source of division is that we dare to refer to God as Father. For Muslims that is seen as blasphemous to ascribe a human characteristic to God.
To a world that seems more unpredictable with each passing day; with people (even some of those who closest to us) sometimes acting irresponsible or self-focused; to a culture that seems more disconnected, more buying into a commercialized, materialistic society that wants us to keep consuming and purchasing things promising to meet our ever need – including those deepest needs about our identity – how we look and feel about ourselves… we can’t lose sight of the radicalness of what Jesus offers us:
A God who is Father…
who is close,
who is caring,
who is generous,
who is kind,
who is forgiving,
who is attentive
who makes us a Family.
Pope Francis a few weeks ago explained – Jesus always used the word “Father” in the most important or challenging moments of his life, saying our Father knows the things we need, before we even ask Him. He is a Father who listens to us in secret just like Jesus advised us to pray in secret. It’s through this Father that we receive our identity as children. And when I say ‘Father’ this goes right to the roots of my identity: my Christian identity is to be his child and this is a grace of the Holy Spirit.
May our daring to utter these beautiful words daily remind us of this essential truth, and offer testimony to all humanity of the only way that we can truly change the way we look and feel about ourselves – in knowing Jesus has revealed God as Our Father and we are His beloved children.