Message: Consider becoming a watchman - to have a time each day for silence, prayer and longing.
Today St. Paul tells us, "Owe nothing to anyone except to love." Then he adds, "The one who loves another has fulfilled the law." To love the other person we need to overcome envy - the comparison trap. Too often, instead of loving others, we compare ourselves to them. If I am doing better than the other guy, I feel superior. But if he has something I don't have, I feel bad. I might even resent him - the sin of envy. Envy destroys peace of mind; envy destroys love.
We live in a culture of envy. Our politics and advertising appeal to envy. Advertising sells products not by describing their worth, but by provoking desire. It often creates impossible ideals. For example, in order to sell beauty products and diets, advertising promotes an image that few can realize. I read an amazing statistic. According to one study, only four percent of women consider themselves beautiful. That's like saying only 4% of sunrises are beautiful.
If a person gets up early, breathes some fresh air and looks east, he will see a beautiful sunrise. Incomparably beautiful. If we could avoid the comparison trap, we would see the beauty in each person - and in our own selves.
I'd like to apply this to the watchman that Ezekiel talks about in the first reading. A watchman waits in silence - sometimes in the darkness of night. He longs for sunrise. You and I need prayer, silence and longing if we are going to see the beauty in others. More and more today we seem to focus on the surface - quick impressions. That's particularly the case with pornography, which moves rapidly from one image to another. Pope St. John Paul II said that the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little! If we are really going to see the other person, we need silence, prayer and longing. We need to be like that night watchman.
The watchman warns about imminent dangers. I'd like to now address two dangers - one particularly for women, the other for us men.
One of the ways the comparison trap affects women is the image of the "super mom." You know what I mean by supermom: expert in child psychology, prepares nutritional and delicious meals, house in perfect order, full-time job, well-behaved children, all this and she never raises her voice. One of my friends had this poster, "I am woman. I am strong. I can do anything." Then down below in small letters, "I'm tired." There's no supermom, only moms.
I try to remind young people that the Fourth Commandment does not say "honor your father and mother if they are perfect." No, it simply says, "Honor your father and mother." No one has perfect parents. God has chosen the exact parents he wants for you. And the Bibles says that children will prosper not because their parents are perfect, but because children honor their imperfect parents. You don't need to be super-mom, but you do need to insist that your children honor you by telling you where they are, who they are with and what they are doing. If your child does that, he will have an abundant life and a long life. The Bible makes that promise. (cf. Dt 5:16, Eph 6:2)
Now, while many women suffer from trying to be "super-mom," we men suffer from the opposite. Women are tempted to do too much; we men are tempted to do too little. The challenge for us is to discover the meaning of our masculinity. It calls us to fatherhood - to protect and provide. One Father's Day, President Obama spoke at a church. "We need fathers to recognize that responsibility doesn't just end at conception, that doesn't make you a father." He continued, "What makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - any fool can have a child. That's doesn't make you father. It's the courage to raise a child that makes you a father."
Have you noticed that we now mention St. Joseph in every Eucharistic Prayer? Even though he was not the physical father of Jesus, he was father in every way that matters. St. Joseph shows us the significance of spiritual fatherhood. In some way every man has that call. As a priest I have a spiritual fatherhood that embraces many spiritual sons and daughters. We priests need your prayers - as does every man called to fatherhood. Someone asked me if I was going to retire. I responded that a person does not retire from fatherhood. There may come a day when I am no longer able to be pastor of parish, but please God I will always be your father.
What we are talking about is discovering one's place - in God's world. That's the only real world. All the comparisons - who's most beautiful, who has most money, who is most successful - all those comparisons come up empty. They vanish like smoke, but God's world endures. Envy, however, can have horrible consequences. We will see that next week when we celebrate the Feast of the Cross: Envy caused Jesus' cruel death, but - as we shall see - the cross contains the cure for envy.
For today I want you to consider becoming a watchman - to have a time each day for silence, prayer and longing. And to pray not only when you are alone, but with others: in your family and the great family - the Church. As Jesus tells us, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Amen.
To listen to the homily as it was delivered at St. Mary of the Valley click here
Finding Your Place Week 1
Finding Your Place Week 2
Finding Your Place Week 3
Finding Your Place Week 4
Finding Your Place Week 5
Week 6: Exaltation of the Cross
Week 7: Summing Up - Are You Envious Because I am Generous?
From Archives (for Twenty-third Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru