Transcript of "Homiliy for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B"
21 October 2012 29rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Annville, PAEarlier this year the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article centered on research done by JeanTwenge, a professor at San Diego University. Twenge and her colleagues examined the behavior and traits ofthe millennial generation, which is defined as those Americans born after 1982. The study compares the traitsof those in High School and entering college today with those of the prior generation. Twenge reports that themillennialists show an “increasing trend of valuing money, image and fame more than inherent principles likeself acceptance, affiliation and community.”In 1971 college students ranked ‘being financially well off’ as 8th in importance. In comparison, since 1989students have always ranked this as their number one concern and focus. The study also showed a steepdecline in care for the environment, civic interest, social responsibility and church attendance. Clearly, the datapoints to a generation focused more on individualism and less on cohesion. In general, the overall results of theresearch support a view of Generation Me versus Generation We.This reminds me of some years back when I had sold my small company to a Fortune 40 firm. I gave them a 4year employee agreement in order for there to be a smooth transition of my business and employees. But soonafter the sale I quickly realized that I was naïve regarding how some large, public corporations operated. What Iexperienced was a culture focused on self promotion, self need and self worth. It was really never about theother – it was all about the dollar.Towards the end of my agreement I was in final negotiations to buy my company back. Just around that timethey spent about $1MM to give each of the 35,000 employees a T-shirt focusing on their newly launchedmotivational campaign for the employees. I will never forget the look on the faces of my senior staff as weopened the boxes to see T-shirts emblazoned with the mantra – The Power of Me. Really? The power of me?It is all about me? Nothing is more important than me?So the Staff asked, “What do we do with all of these shirts?” They knew how absurd and anti cultural it was forus to be focused on “me” versus “we”. So by that afternoon all of our 300 shirts had been dropped off at thelocal homeless shelter. It kind of made us smile to see these men and women, living on the margins, walkingaround downtown wearing shirts that read, ‘The Power of Me’!And if you listened to the today’s Gospel it would seem that actually not much has really changed over 2,000years. Once again, James and his younger brother John are the main characters in the story. And if youremember, when Jesus first asked his cousins to drop their nets and follow him, he gave them a nickname –boanerges, which was translated Sons of Thunder. Since then biblical scholars have relooked at how thetranslation was done and have determined that a more accurate translation is closer to “Thunder Boys” or inother words, a “bunch of wind bags” or “all bark and no bite.”It seems his cousins, who he loved so much, were likely filled with themselves in a loud way. Remember it wasJames and John who asked the Christ if they should call down fire from the heavens to burn up a Samaritanvillage, all because they were not welcomed there. I bet you they would have loved wearing those ‘Power of Me’t-shirts.So as you heard, we find Christ on his way to Jerusalem to knowingly suffer crucifixation and death. And hiscousins come forward (other gospel passages will say that their Mom was behind this all)…but they ask if theycan take the seat on his left and his right. Can they be the top dogs. Can they be the very special ones. Youcan almost taste the arrogance and ego dripping from their lips.So can you picture the face of Christ? He had to be saying to himself, “You got to be kidding me, right? I tookyou to the top of the mountain with Peter and showed you my radiant self. You have witnessed all of my signs 1 Deacon Jim Knipper
and miracles. You have seen me reach out to the least of my brothers and sisters. And this is what you ask mein return?”Throughout his ministry Jesus was trying to move his disciples away from what was the norm: living in an honorand shame society - where your actions were not based on right or wrong but rather what brought you honorand praise from others. In essence your actions fed your ego – it really was all about me. But time and timeagain Christ was showing his disciples a new way to be community to each other….a new way to live and loveeach other.Christ was trying to open the eyes of his disciples and thus to you and me that servant leadership was the wayto live our lives. That we are to be focused on others, especially those on the margins. That we are to focus oncommunity, not on self, not on me. That we are to serve our family, coworkers, and the people sitting in thepews around us. That it is not about seeking recognition, not about the honors we collect or are bestowed, butabout doing the work of Christ.But all that bucks conventional wisdom of today. Our society is filled with many people like James and Johnwho are focused on putting their needs first in order to feel good. We see it in the workplace – like Iexperienced. You can’t help but see it in the political world with only weeks to go before the election. And evenour Church can’t escape the lure of ego as was recently call out by Cardinal Martini’s during his deathbedinterview when he warned that the Church culture was out of date and pompous.So we turn to the last line of today’s Gospel that gives us the key to unlock Christ’s message on how we shouldlead our lives when Christ said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give up my life for all of you.”This is the type of life we are called to live – to use our gifts to serve those around us – in others words, tocreate union and communion.And there not a more important place for this than in the home. I work with scores of couples each year inpreparation for their marriage and stay in touch with many of them over the years. And the marriages that mostoften run into challenges are those where one or both spouses shift their focus solely on “me” rather than “we”.Caring for the other is a key to a successful marriage and the best example I know of this would be my in-laws,Peter and Pat Poloney.As some of you may know, our family has gathered at this Eucharistic table, where we have for so many yearsfor so many reasons – this time to celebrate Peter and Pat’s 60 th wedding anniversary. They have been andcontinue to be incredible witnesses of love for the risen Christ as well as for each other. I have been blessed toknow them for some 35 years and their lives have constantly been for others versus self.They have dealt with a diversity of challenges and issues that many families face in raising seven children – andthe good Lord knows that some of us have been known to throw some curve balls at them over the years. Butthrough it all they have shown us that greatness is found in the ordinary - the everyday. They have lived theirlives and raised their family and loved us and each other all these years – knowing that that is where God isfound – in the ordinary, in the hard work, in the laughter, in the tears - for each other and with each other –living a life of servant leadership, humbly void of ego, absent of arrogance – doing the work of God. Andindeed, our family and this parish, have all been blessed by their lives, their love and their service to others.And so I would like to invite Peter and Pat to come forward to receive a blessing upon their marriage on thisoccasion of their 60th anniversary. 2 Deacon Jim Knipper