Almost 30 years later, (and I can’t even calculate how many times I’ve watched every single episode) the sitcom Seinfeld still cracks me up on a regular basis. If I’m flipping the channels and it’s on Comedy Central I can’t help but leave it on – and the daily airings on WPIX -11 are almost a part of my daily routine to wind down at the end of the day. I have way too many scenes memorized and it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite (although I have a list). A couple of weeks ago, one of those favorites was on-again, called “The Opposite.” One of the main characters, George Costanza is lamenting to his friends Jerry and Elaine about the whole trajectory his life has taken. After sitting out on the beach by himself reflecting on his lack of a meaningful job, relationship, he bemoans: Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but … I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong. This results in Jerry and Elaine proposing experiments for George to test his theory. To do the exact opposite of his instincts moving forward – from ordering his “usual” off the menu at the diner to ignoring the attractive woman who glanced at him. So first he gets a chicken salad sandwich instead of tuna and then he sheds his characteristic whiny and pathetic demeanor that has prevented him from even approaching an attractive woman and instead of engaging her in conversation. After explaining he noticed her looking in his direction, she responds that she did when she overheard George ordering the exact same lunch as she did. At which he takes a deep breath and says My name is George. I’m unemployed and I live with my parents. At which point, she with full attention towards him puts out her hand, smiling, and says I’m Victoria. Hi.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME -February 13, 2022, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments… I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing Sincerely in Christ – Father Jim
The brilliance of the episode that is lost on the main characters who are seemingly incapable of any meaningful self-reflection in life is that the reason George’s life turns around (at least in this episode) is that “the opposite” for him means being truthful, treating women with dignity and respect, having patience while also confronting difficult situations and conversations with directness and confidence.
There is something about the whole premise of that episode that stayed with me. How often human nature, our instincts can really be “the opposite” of what leads us to truth, to goodness, to encountering God? For example, our very normal human dispositions, our impulses tell us to avoid being poor, hungry, weeping, hated – and to pursue riches, being full, laughter, popularity. Yet Jesus in this Gospel, one of his most popular sermons says the opposite. That the first group is blessed and the other group is not.
It’s confusing. No matter how many times we encounter this Gospel passage, there’s that voice within that proposes that if God is all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing – then we have these expectations: wouldn’t doing the right thing always be respected, appreciated, and rewarded? Wouldn’t being faithful to God be rewarded with protection, showered with blessings of wealth, comfort, and favor? Wouldn’t those who are “enemies” of God find it hard to get ahead? Listening to Jesus, is He saying then, only those who are miserable right now in life will gain eternal salvation? And those who are extremely comfortable and fulfilled right now, enjoy it while it lasts?
Those thoughts and feelings can lead to people arguing getting lost in a comparison game – justifying why they’re poor or not as rich as someone else – trying to convince ourselves why we’re in one camp over the other. Setting the stage for class warfare. All of which, quite simply, is the opposite of what Jesus is trying to do here.
The key to understanding this is when the Gospel tells us Jesus “raising His eyes toward His disciples.” He’s directing the entirety of this sermon to each of his disciples. He’s not making general observations about the world. He’s not giving a guideline to say “get your accounting book out here’s the line where your rich and in danger/ poor your good…”
He’s talking about the complexity of what goes on inside each of our hearts. And more specifically: How do we see ourselves and how do we see God?
Too many who are poor and rich – they both fall for that lie that those who have material wealth are blessed by God. Too many who struggle for food and those who are well fed – they both fall for the lie that physical hungers being fulfilled is evidence of being favored by Him. Too many who are weeping and hated and those laughing and popular imagine those experiences prove who is truly loved by God and those who aren’t. It can cause those going without to resent those who have to believe they’re obviously on the right track.
In that space, words that Jerry Seinfeld says to his friend George would be applicable: If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.
Jesus desires you.
Each and everyone of us were fearfully wonderfully made. Each of us is gifted in countless, individual ways. Each of us has a place. Each of us has a purpose. Each of us is deliberately imagined as part of God’s magnificent creation. God sees us as so much more than we see ourselves as, as we get distracted with very worldly, earthly things as our barometer. When we recognize that God becomes man, dies on the cross so that our sins won’t be an obstacle to our being united with the one who created us – that Jesus remains present here and speaks to us through this His word and then continues to make himself accessible as God Himself becomes real, present in simple bread in the consecrated host; vulnerable to be grasped and received by mere mortals – that has to change our entire perspective on, well, everything.
Not one thing escapes God’s notice. That’s the good news and beauty of this Gospel. Jesus looks us in the eye and says “I see the poverty… I see your hunger… I know what makes you weep… hated.” When we see Him. When we see that God’s love is not illustrated or demonstrated in doling out of material possessions… When we recognize that our value isn’t determined by opinion polls, likes or friends we can number. When we recognize it’s the opposite of everything that we’re tempted to believe are the signs of success and instead, simply, When we see Him, hear Him, trust Him, and follow Him — it’s then that we start to realize how blessed we truly are.