Every couple of weeks, all the campus ministers from the colleges and universities we serve in the Archdiocese of Newark come together for prayer, a short business meeting and some casual hang-out time. All of them are young adults, Just out of college a few years. Most of them are working alone. So it’s a good opportunity to pray together, support each other in this ministry and get to know each other. But perhaps we’ve learned too much about each other. At the end of our last meeting, one priest (who will remain nameless) and I were chatting with two campus ministers. I’m still unsure of how the topic came up – if someone was talking about shows they were watching on Netflix or catching up on from the summer – but the topic of FOX’s summer series “BH90210″ a “reboot” of the show from the 1990’s Beverly Hills 90210 came up. I think I mentioned it in passing just to see if the two young women had been watching it or not (at this point, I still hadn’t said if I had or not)
Hi everyone! This is my homily for September 22, 2019 – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings for today’s Mass can be found HERE Thanks as always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it! Have a great week – God Bless – Fr Jim. AUDIO Also you can get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2
What I didn’t expect was this other priest to very casually mention some of his favorite episodes from when he watched the original series when he was in middle school. That opened the flood gates: I started sharing favorite scenes, remembeing ridiculous story lines in great detail, bringing up ancillary characters -all things that only someone who pretty much watched the series on a regular basis would know. So yeah, I am a fan. I’m feeling a lot of negative judgment right now – I was in college at the time and it was in fact one of the most popular shows for high school/college age people.
Anyway – this other priest and I started were going back and forth laughing hysterically as we recalled our favorite moments from the show. All the while these two campus ministers – who had never seen a single episode just had this look of shock, horror, amusement – I don’t know. But as the conversation went on we kept insisting to them they had to start watching the show– not the reboot, the original one – they had to start streaming it on Hulu – they had no idea how limited their life had been up until this point.
About a week later, I got a text message from the one saying “Fr Jim you’ve created monsters, the two of us cannot stop watching Beverly Hills 90210.” As we texted back and forth, and they revealed they were possibly 15 episodes in (all in one weeks time mind you) – As this text conversation continued, I started to feel self-conscious. Again – I can feel a lot of judgment right now with thoughts out there asking “that’s when you felt self-conscious?” I jokingly responded, “I should be this effective at ministering and being a missionary…” Here it was one 20 minute conversation convinced them to start watching a television show from the 1990s (as brilliant as it was)
Isn’t that the truth though? When we’re passionate about something – when we buy into something – we have to share it with the world. We want everyone to jump on the bandwagon. You find a great book, or movie or TV-show, you are constantly trying to get other people to read it or see it. I don’t know how many people tried to get me to watch Game of Thrones. I had zero desire to see the show Breaking Bad – one of my brothers was completely hooked and after rebuffing him on it, he just bought me the entire DVD series for Christmas one year – almost forcing me to watch it. After Mass this morning, this one woman was trying to convince a friend of hers to try her recipe for making meatballs and why it was so much better then the one she had used for years and years. When this friend of mine started a new nutritional regimen… he was dealing with some health issues and done some research to the point that he became an expert and then a salesperson for some of the supplements. He was constantly (and still is) trying to get me – and everyone of his facebook friends – to get on the program, promising how it will change our lives. It’s more common than we think- we want people to become fans of the things that we’re fans of…
That experience is something to keep in mind when we consider this Gospel passage. This is probably one of the most off-putting parables we have ever heard. Because on the surface it sounds like Jesus is commending some questionable (at best) activities by this steward… even acknowledging that he’s being“dishonest” in his actions. So what is Jesus getting at?
Let’s look at the story again – The steward in the parable had “squandered” the rich man’s property. He has made a massive mess of things… of what had been entrusted to him. Realizing what he had done, knowing that his job was on the line – a job that did mean a lot to him, since he admits that there’s really not a lot else out there that he was equipped or motivated to do – he somewhat craftily goes from person to person, from debtor to debtor and works out all kinds of new deals. Would it have been better had he not gotten into the mess in the first place? Absolutely – but once he had, rather than simply giving up, he takes his craftiness, his talents, his abilities – all the things that made him someone the master wanted to hire in the first place – and sets out and eventually is able to turn this all around. He’s a wheeler and dealer through and through. And when it counted the most, the guy demonstrates his abilities in a way to save himself.
At the heart of this passage, what Jesus is admiring is seeing how determined, how committed to things that each and every one of us can become when we get passionate about something… whatever that might be, And most likely, every one of us can think of something like that which is true in all of our lives. Whether its playing an instrument, learning how to cook, or playing Madden Football on X-box. As individuals, when we find something we’re really interested in, something we enjoy, something that’s important to us: We become invested in it, We make time for it, We make sacrifices for it, we share it with the world.
What Jesus is wondering is where is that fire, that passion, that dedication on the part of us – His“children of the light?” How single minded are we about bringing about His Kingdom here on earth? How focused are we on serving Him? How consumed are we with trying to live by the teachings of the Gospel? How passionate are we about this faith of ours that promises eternal life?
Jesus isn’t saying not to get excited by the things of this world that we enjoy… He’s not saying you have to give up sports, stop playing games, never watch television again as a way of proving you love Jesus more than those things. (Well, he might disagree with watching 90210…) But the point is the things you’re passionate about – those interests you have – they are all a part of what makes you you. Those different aspects of our personalities are what helps makes us unique and special. We all contribute, we are all apart of this massive masterpiece that the Lord has created. Where the challenge is, can we tap into those abilities of ours… can we utilize our gifts, can we bring our passion… can we take ourselves and to put them at his service? Being creative in bringing the Gospel to others. Recognizing and commiting ourselves to the importance and the urgency in sharing Him and His promises.
A few years ago, this internationally known entertainer by the name of Penn Jillette (from the famous duo of Penn and Teller) who is an avowed atheist said something that has stayed with me since. He shared how this one night, a fan of his came up to him after a performance when Penn was signing autographs. This guy was such a genuine fan – that he had been there a couple nights earlier (and had seen Penn multiple times over the years) and just came back this night hoping to have a moment with the celebrity. When he did, the guy was able to share his genuine admiration to the entertainer for his work over the years… and then said to Penn that he even though he knew that he was an atheist, this fan of his as a Christian, wanted to share what was most important to him, so he gave Penn Jillette a bible. In that bible, the man wrote a heartfelt, dedication to him. Penn Jillette who is known for being incredibly sarcastic took to YouTube the next day and said how genuinely moved he was by this act. Even though he was an atheist Penn Jillette called all of us Christians out asking why don’t more of us do the same? Why aren’t we that mindful, thoughtful and passionate to want to share what we believe is good news? Or as Penn Jillette put it – How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible, and not tell [others] that . . This might be one area that Jesus and Penn Jillette would agree.
We are gifted, talented, blessed people. God has poured out opportunities – He has already placed people in our lives, His providence has ordained us to interact with great varieties of people in all sorts of walks of life. Imagine if with the same confidence that we talk about our favorite movie – we talked about this great community that we’re members of to our classmates, other people in the dorm, even family members. Imagine if with the same joy that we share the latest discovery we’ve made on the internet with our facebook followers, we shared the revelation we’ve come to know of God’s infinite love for us, for all of humanity. I joked about how my sharing 90210 with a couple of people got them hooked on a stupid TV show – but this point is far from a joke or stupid. We are able, equipped and called to influence others. But first, we need to recognize what it is that we receive here. We feast on God’s living word – and we will soon receive from this altar – Jesus’ living Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Those are life changing gifts – both here and now and leading us into eternal life with Him. If we in our own authentic, genuine ways can reflect on that gift and creatively find ways to share it in our own corners of the world – then we will testify that we truly only have one “Master” who really matters.