This Sunday, here in the United States, is not an ordinary Sunday. It is known as SUPER BOWL SUNDAY! It is the day the football championship is decided and mighty are the preparations. There are house-parties, gatherings in pubs, wagerings of all kinds and those are mostly for people who do not even like football!
Millions, I mean millions, of dollars are spent on TV advertising and on the entertaining show at half-time of the game. It is a social-sports event. The two teams have been preparing specifically for this game for the past two weeks, but though they say they are ready, they do wonder what is coming; does the other team have some surprises for which there is not readiness enough.
We prepare to attend and assist at this Sunday’s Eucharist by bringing our best and our worst selves to be blessed and called for the unexpected surprises of our ordinary days. We prepare for the Eucharist by our being attentive to how God has been active within the moments of each day. Going to church is made more meaningful by our every-day experiencing of just how God has been coming to us.
The context for the verses of our First Reading is an instruction from God about true fasting. The prophet speaks from God about what kind of penitential actions pleases God. It is not rolling around in ashes and hanging ones head in shame. It is more positive and life-giving. It has more to do with what one does for the good of others than what penance does for ones self.
Our verses are very clear and the only debate we have with them is about how we can excuse ourselves from practicing them.
The gloom and darkness which the prophet announces is personal, soul-felt, shame and personal negativity. For the person who can give food to the poor, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, the personal gloom and doom will be lifted and midday brightness will occur. The sins of darkness are those of deliberate neglect of strangers and kin. There is a divine payoff. When the request from God is heard and accomplished, the prayers addressed to God will likewise be heard and God will say, “Here I am!”
The Gospel reading follows last Sunday’s opening of the Sermon on the Mount. We heard the instructions of how to act as a disciple of Jesus. The Beatitudes are the beginning of Jesus’ socio-religious platform. We hear the very next verses about how our good works are not to be hidden, but they are to be revelations of the Light of Christ. God is to be tasted and seen by the spice of life and the light of life within us.
I recall a parade we attended when I was quite young. Ahead of the first marching band was a little-older-than-me girl with white boots, spangled skirt, red, white and blue top and a headdress of plumes who appeared so confident and in charge that I hated her. She twirled a baton and threw it high and caught it without missing a step. I hated her high stepping and showing off as she strutted right down our street. I hated her showing off and I hated I wasn’t she. Her light was shining and in my sidewalk-standing gloom, she seemed full of pride, a sin which was not allowed in our Irish-Catholic house and hearts.
Jesus is telling His disciples that there is a difference between showing-off and showing-up. Showing-off is a play of pretense. Showing-up is a display of truth. Jesus is telling His friends that their truth is His light in them and their spirit is seasoned by His preserving flavor within them. If they stay faithful to whom Jesus claims them to be, then their flavor and light will display the God Who strutted the Divine stuff through creation and now through Jesus.
Each of us is in a constant process of revealing our selves, even if we are not aware of it or really sure of the self we are revealing. Every gesture speaks volumes and others can read the signs and hear the wordless statements. We are followers of Jesus Who heard and believed Who He was. As followers we hear and yet find it hard, to believe who He says we are. We have first-hand evidence of our un-defining self-centeredness. How can I be what He says, when I say what I am by my pretenses and showing-offs.
What Jesus came to save us from is the eternal consequences of not knowing who we are and acting thusly. He is Savior from and Savior for. The “for” is the living as the highest form of God’s creative love. Jesus is telling us that though mountains and stars and fantastic beauty can display the awesomeness of God, it dwindles before the gestures of compassion, generosity, self-sacrificing and creativity of a light and salty human being who knows who she/he really is.
“Give praise to the Lord for His kindness; He has filled the hungry with good things, He has satisfied the thirsty.” Ps. 107, 8-9
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