Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mar. 11, 2012: 3rd Sunday of Lent

After celebrating daily mass at St. Francis Church, I drove toward Ascension Church and was at the intersection by the pharmacy waiting for the light to turn. I felt my car vibrate and I knew that it was not because my car was stalling. I looked over to the right, and a thumping bass sound was coming out of the car next to mine. I chuckled inside because I recalled the sign in Donaldsonville that notifies all that by a city ordinance, loud music will result in a fine of $100. As I drove to the church, I remembered the times when I had the music of my favorite rock group blaring in my car with windows down, hoping others would also notice my cool taste in music. As I drove into the parking lot of Ascension Church, the school students were arriving and I noticed that a couple of young ladies were dancing in their car with their windows rolled up and music volume turned up. Coach, who patrols the parking lot every morning, stopped by the car and tapped on the window. No, they were not given a $100 fine, but they were politely asked to hurry to their classes.

Do you remember your younger days when you were glued to your LP player, 8-Track player, or cassette player? We certainly spent a lot of time listening to music. These days, though, I notice a different trend among the young and the not so young. Instead of our ears being constantly preoccupied, our eyes are fixed on a screen. One newspaper photo showed a couple sitting down for breakfast, booth with iPads in their hands.  It appeared as if they were a couple of strangers sitting in a cafĂ© preoccupied with their screens. Unfortunately, this is a scene repeated everywhere. While at a mall food court, I observed three teenagers sitting on a table, each with his IPhone, seldom speaking to each other. By the way, this same mall only a few weeks ago had several hundred young men lined up early in the morning, vying for a particular brand of sneakers. What we line up for and what we are glued to is where our treasure is. Put in a scriptural way, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21)

This begs the question, then, what is it that we worship? We use the word ‘worship’ typically in the context of religion or church. What is worship? It is reverent honor, admiration, or devotion to an object of esteem. Does it matter what we honor, admire, or what we are devoted to? I heard a successful businessman give his testimony about his faith journey. During one period of his life, he was a multi-millionaire who was a semi-professional body builder. He said that if he were not worrying about his latest real estate deals, his restaurants, or new financial venture, he would be in the gym working out for the next body building competition. He said, “I worshipped my body, and the mirror was my best friend.” Then one day, his wife told him that she was leaving the marriage. He did not have a clue that he had neglected his wife all the while he paid extravagant devotion to his money and his body. He said his order of worship was his money, his body, his wife, and God and that until his wife wanted a separation, that he had not realized that the order was completely wrong, and it disordered the very core of his life. Don’t we also have objects of esteem that overly preoccupy us, that cause significant worry in our life and where we spend our money, our time, and our energy? If we are humble and honest, don’t we have something or someone to whom we have excessive devotion or admiration?

Why did God give us the first three commandments of the Ten Commandments dedicated to worshipping Him alone? It is because of our pride that we tend to put other things ahead of Him. Take our Sundays for example; even this priest is shopping on Sundays at Walmart thinking it is like another Saturday. How many of the sporting events are now scheduled on Sundays? St. Paul said that our body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit where Heavenly Father alone is worshipped. If Jesus were to enter this temple of ours, what would He find? Would He find, like in our Gospel, a marketplace? Would Jesus find in us things to overturn and chase out of the temple?

 Jesus tells us that we must be single-minded; our heart must be centered on the Father. We are blind and do not even realize that we worship false gods, and therefore we are not free—we are not free to worship the Father. The reason why Heavenly Father asks us to His House every day is so that we might see the great love He bestows on us. As much love and devotion that we place on other things, there is no greater love that fulfills us and transforms us than that which Jesus poured out for us on the Cross. Whereas we are preoccupied with avoiding suffering, Jesus reminds us how much he suffered for us, out of love for us. Will we suffer to help others learn about Our Lord? I wish that when I was younger that I had spent more time thinking about how to please God than growing my hair long like the rock star I idolized, and then I probably would not have damaged my eardrum.

".....Oh Jesus, I see You greater than all the treasures of the earth. Yes, my sweetest God, my most lovable Jesus: to my eyes You are greater than the greatest treasures on earth. How gladly I would unite with Your Angels! How gladly I would be consumed in Your praises! How gladly I would remain always before You!But what do I say when I speak of You? ... I say what I can, never what I ought.And if I do not know how ... will I stay silent? No, because my Jesus must be loved, honored by everyone! .. , Do not look at what I say with my mind, look inside of me.", - St. Gemma Galgani