24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
September 15, 2013
SELFISH, SELFIES, GENEROUSLY, GODLY!
You know the type. They are everywhere … at churches, malls, planes, airports, restos … why, even rest rooms! They take countless pics of themselves in various poses and facial expressions, with matching hand gestures for accent. And they post them via social networking sites for the world to “like” rant and rave on!
Psychotherapists now are almost one in claiming that the internet has been steadily churning out narcissists one facebook or twitter pic or instagram post at a time. There is even a new term for all this … “impression management.” Narcissists spend a mighty long time each day “managing” one’s posts and pics in order to give the best impression of oneself as possible.
Selfies, they are now called. Incidentally, it is no accident of linguistics that it happens to rhyme with selfish, which in plain language, narcissism is all about – being focused on one self and not much else besides.
Today, I would like to think that the readings point, not to selfies and selfishness, but to something great, noble, grand, and glorious.
The first reading pictures God doing a magnanimous act. He sends Moses to His people for they have erected the equivalent of a grand selfie – a molten calf, around which they danced, sang, and worshiped – in vain! But God was not one to be carried away by superficial “likes” in facebook, or “plus” in googleplus. God was not one to be carried away by rigged surveys and popularity contests. God was a God of truth, and one who made demands to live by that truth. God was a God of justice, who saw to it that people also lived out the demands of the same justice. But God, was as much a God of justice as He is a God of compassion and mercy. “The Lord relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.” (1st reading).
You know the kind, too. They post something about themselves on their wall, more often than not, their latest “impression managed” portrait in the best possible angle, wearing the most egregious outfit, or eating the most delicious doughnut at Starbucks or some fancy café … They wait a few seconds … If nothing happens within the first 2 or 3 minutes, they then “like” their own post, like as if to give themselves a “high five” for being so beautiful, so cute, so likeable, and so debonair!
Contrast this with St. Paul, who does anything but a selfie, but offers a lowly confession: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.”
Selfishness gives way to selflessness. Arrogance gave way to generosity, and incipient grandiosity in his rabid persecution of Christians gave way to Godliness and humility.
Life as we know it now is full of selfies and selfishness. The world as we know it now is reeling under the weight of the “I, Me, and Mine” syndrome. Even the two sons of a provident father in the gospel were stricken with this “mining” business … “Give me my share of the property,” said the younger son. “Why throw a party for your son who threw away your wealth?” said the older son, like as if to say, “What about me?” “I never even had a kid goat to celebrate with my friends!”
But the mining business is not what the gospel and the readings teach us today. All three readings go against the grain. They fly in the face of selfishness and selfie culture.
They all teach us about God, even as they show us how to be godly and generous. And being such is not something for the selfish who are addicted to selfies. Being such has to do with the likes of Paul who worried not about being “liked” and being popular, and being the darling of SWS and other survey outfits, rigged or realistic.
No one gets noticed by being humble. No one gets rave reviews by being lowly and living a hidden life with God together with the least, the last, the lowest, and the lost.
The Holy Father, incidentally, stopped the giving of the title “monsignors” to priests. No big deal … they are nothing but honorific titles. They are nothing but the equivalent of “likes” in facebook. They offer nothing new and substantial to one’s personhood.
The only “rise” we can expect to get from God, is not being raised up to earthly glories that flee and fade in due time. Try this, dear friends. It works!
“I will rise and go to my father.”