11 December 2015

Happy Meal Spirituality

NB. Re-posting this 2005 homily b/c it uses one of my fav phrases. . .
2nd Week of Advent 2005 (Fri)
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas
Not a flattering picture, is it? Jesus compares his generation to fickle children trying to entertain one another in the marketplace: they play joyful music and no one dances, mournful music and no one cries. They complain bitterly to one another because the entertainment is ignored, unappreciated. You can almost see their energetic boredom, their restless hunger to be amused, diverted—show us something fun, something wild and crazy! Their attention owned by the flashiest sight, the loudest noise, the most daring stunt. They are a generation of vacillating thrill seekers, a generation given over to the inconsistency of their passion for the next bright-shiny thing, the next pretty novelty, the next whatever it is that they haven’t seen before.

Jesus is worried that his generation lacks wisdom, that there is a spirit of folly animating those who watch him and expect to be entertained, those who follow him but do so only to see a show. This fickleness is a sign that an abiding wisdom eludes them, that they have sold themselves to the arena, the theater of foolishness, and squander their lives on the silliness of spectacle.

This fickle generation rejects John because of his asceticism—no eating, no drinking—and they reject Jesus because of his generosity—a friend of tax collectors and sinners. Every face of redemption shown them, they reject. Every opportunity given to them to come to wisdom seems somehow wrong, not quite to their taste. Jesus’ frustration with their folly is clear in his irritated tone: “But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Of course, Jesus’ vision is broader than one generation. No doubt he is looking forward and watching generation after generation fall into the same temptation to pull wisdom down from the altar and replace it with foolish novelties, silly entertainments. Is there a generation that hasn’t done this? Has there been a time in the Church when we weren’t distracted by the empty promises of the Lie and our attention taken away from the Word? Probably not. But I think we’ve gotten a lot better at distilling the silliness into more intense moments of fleeting sensation, much better at staging the drama—the tragedies and the comedies—of our hungry lives into bigger, brighter, better funded orgies of spiritually useless consumption. 

Our way out, of course, is Jesus—to be true followers, to get in behind him and walk his path, his narrow way, to our perfection in holiness. Isaiah preaches to us, prophesies for us that it is the Lord, our God, who will teach us what is good and who will lead us on the way we should go. He promises prosperity and vindication, great success and justification, if we will listen to the Lord’s will for us, pay attention to His plan for us and follow Him. God’s wisdom for us will be justified in the works He does for us, with us, and through us.

John’s penitential austerity and Jesus extravagant love, the precursor and the consummation of our salvation, demands a more focused attention, a weightier commitment than all the spiritual entertainments of this generation: New Age non-sense, self-help psychobabble, do-it-my-way-Catholicism, and the cult of narcissistic, material acquisition. What feeds us, fills us finally, is the Lord’s feast of wisdom, His party of eternal goods laid out for us, given to us to satisfy that gnawing hunger, that deep rumbling of need that pushes us toward the easy fill, the quick snack.
Who, but a fool, eats the Happy Meal when the All-You-Can-Eat buffet of the Lord is right here, free of charge?


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