Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I Ecclesiastics 1-23
Psalm 90:3-6, 12-14, 17
Reading II St. Paul to the Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11
Gospel Luke 12:13-21
What does it mean to be vain? What does it mean to be rich? You and I usually live in a world where that is all spelled out in things. We look at wealth as money. We look at vain as: “I look better than you, or, I have a better job than you.” When you look at those two together, they can either take you away from God, or they can bring you closer to God.
An example. There was a young boy and when he was born he had a disfigured face. The boy was very self-conscious of that. He went to school and everyone made fun of him. He didn’t want to go to school and he didn’t have any friends. He didn’t believe in himself. Then one day someone said to him, “You know, you ought to go get one of those masks on your face.” Today we’d call it plastic surgery. “Put this on your face and its real close to your skin and no one will notice it’s not your skin, and you are going to have a perfect face.” So he thought it might work. He had it done and went back to school. Now everybody began to talk to him and thought he was just a great guy.
As life went on he met a girl and they began to date. After they had dated for a while the girl said to him, “Are we ever going to talk about getting married?” And he said, “No.” And she asked, “Why?” He said, “Because I am wearing a mask and when I take that mask off, you are going to see what I really look like, and you are not going to want to marry me.” She said, “I’m not marrying you for your looks. I’m marrying you because I just love you, and I feel that you love me. Just take off the mask and let me see.”
So he took off the mask, and his face had developed the features of the mask. She said, “Come. Look in the mirror. I want you to see what you look like.” When he saw what he looked like and that his body, mainly his face, had taken on the image of what this mask had imprinted on his face — he couldn’t believe that he was capable of being loved, and that someone loved him for who he really was.
What message is in this story that teaches us? We are all created equally, but different. There are no two people alive that have the same abilities. But the one ability that we do have is the gift of love and we have to know how to live that love, and how to share that love. And when we have that love in our heart, that’s when we have God. So, that young girl was a gift from God who let this young man know that he had everything she needed. That applies to all of us. We all have something that someone else needs. The question is, are we willing to let them have it?
I don’t know much of the World Youth Day you may have watched on TV this weekend. If you were watching yesterday afternoon, it was one of the most powerful hours of prayer that I have ever seen on television. The Holy Father presided and two million people were there. The organizers put on a skit, and it was a prayerful skit that centered around the life of Sister Faustina who grew up in Krakow, Poland, and who lived a life of mercy. When Pope John Paul II became Pope, and he grew up with all of that history and the stories of Sister Faustina, he brought her story to the rest of the world so that you and I will learn from the story and become people of mercy. And it means that we should love each other and see the good in each other.
During the skit they had a chorus singing with many voices. Out on the piazza they had young people in the skit. The best way I can explain it is: If this pillar was plastic, then there was a platform, and they had some one standing on a platform in each one of the pillars. There were seven pillars. The young people in the pillars were all doing something and they did not want to be distracted. Someone was looking at his cellphone and, even though it was clear plastic the person saw nothing else. The skit went from pillar to pillar.
This was all done in silence with the music singing behind. Faustina stood there as a young woman looking at the young people in the pillars, and she saw what was going on. Then she went over and got some young people, and asked them to go to each pillar and invite the young person, male or female, to come out of that clear plastic world and to come out onto the piazza. And when they brought them all out onto the piazza then the entire group of them joined together, and they went into a magnificent dance. If you could have seen the expression on the face of Pope Francis as these young people were dancing! Faustina was watching and she just came alive. Then it showed her becoming a nun; they dressed her and put the long black dress on her, they put the headband on, and they put the veil on.
Then she went out in the midst of them, and after the dance was finished they all stood there and the music ended. Not a word was spoken except for the voices of those singing.
The whole point of that prayer was that you and I need to step out of our moments of being vain and we need to step into the world in which we live — and we need to reach out to each other. When the skit ended Pope Francis said, “The only thing I can say to all of you is that in a few moments we are going to pray ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and I ask that all two million of you — take each other’s hands, and we will be a family.” Then when they went into that prayer you saw everybody reach out.
It’s a beautiful example of what these readings are teaching us. It wasn’t about houses, and money and jobs — it was all about what lives in our hearts, and how you and I reach out to one another and make a difference. Sometimes you and I are the ones that stand up in those pedestals of plastic.
“Oh, someone else will do it.”
Jesus says, “There is no someone else. It has to be you who comes down and dances with the rest of us.”
So today we are back in Quincy, we’re not in Poland, and the Youth Day is closing with a closing liturgy. Two million-plus will go back home to all five continents. Hopefully they will come back, including the 80 from our Diocese, and share their experience with us.
But Jesus says, “That’s what wealth is. And when you have that wealth you do not ever need to be vain. And no matter what you think is imperfect about yourself, in God’s eyes, you are perfect.”
Sometimes we have to remember that. I remember when I was a kid there was a girl across the street and when you looked at her she was kind of cross-eyed. One day she said to me, “I have a glass eye.” Well, as a kid you always say, “Well, show me.” And she did. She would just pop out her eye and say, “See.” Then she’d pop it back in. If she had just a socket there we may have been making fun of her, but once we knew that she couldn’t see without it — it didn’t make any difference.
So the question today is: When you and I leave, are we going to make a difference in Quincy? Are we going to notice someone we hadn’t noticed before? Are we going to say hello to someone when we usually walk right by? Are we going to invite someone to know our name? Or are we just going to live in our little glass cage ignoring the whole world until someone comes up, takes us by the hand and says, “Will you please join us?”
Then put a smile on your face and watch everyone dance together. Jesus is the Lord of the dance.
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0053)