Saturday, July 31, 2010

This Old Extreme Makeover (2010-08-01)

This is my homily for Sunday 1 August 2010, 18th Sunday in ordinary time. On-campus Mass at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ resumes 7:30 p.m. Sunday August 29 for the 2010-2011 school year. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.

Eclesiast├ęs 1:2, 2:21-23 | Psalm 89 | Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 | + Luke 12:13-21

[_01_] Some ideas are so innovative, so successful that the concept will be the source of comedy/satire or the concept will be taken up by others …

Such is the case of This Old House, a public-television series launched in 1979 on WGBH in Boston.

This Old House follows the remodeling projects of houses over a number of weeks. In This Old House -- and in the programs which imitate it -- the builders discover, plan and construct a home that might otherwise be lost.

A few years, later, in the 1980’s a popular situation comedy made a spoof of This Old House -- Home Improvement with Tim Allen.

And … now, on ABC, we have Extreme Makeover Home Edition (E.M.H.E.). And, we also have the Home and Garden Network and the other followers. These are the Hollywood full-color action-hero versions of This Old House. And, on E.M.H.E., they even finish the job in one week for an impoverished family.

[_02_] The Gospel parable today is also about upgrading and improving, an extreme makeover, perhaps?

In the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus relates this parable –

“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest. He asked himself, ‘What shall I do, for I do not have space to store my harvest?’ And he said, ‘This is what I shall do: I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones. There I shall store all my grain and other goods and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you, you have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” (Luke 12:16-19)

This man believes he has plenty of time and money. Unfortunately, time is running out on his upgrade opportunity.

[_03_] It is certainly exciting to discover something which can be improved, upgraded, saved … salvation.

It is our faith to believe in salvation too. And, we believe that the Lord reaches out to us with his grace, to discover us, to make us over.

St. Paul touches on this in his letter to the Colossians, saying that we are also remade, rebuilt. Paul is writing about the need for meditation – prayer – repentance – forgiveness – renewal. This is the “stripping off of the old self” (cf., Colossians 3:9).

However, this is not a superficial process with paint and sandpaper. Forgiveness, in particular, goes much deeper.

Consider how difficult it is to ask for forgiveness or to show forgiveness. This is a rethinking of the whole structure. We need a new architect…and Christ is the cornerstone.

It is an extreme makeover.

Or, we might say, we are rebuilding This Old House.

[_04_] Rebuilding requires imagination … and faith and commitment. We are called to imagine God’s love for us.

This is what we do when we are trying to rebuild something which is fragile …or something which has failed or fallen down.

And, we too have fallen down at times.

It requires a subtle touch.

[_05_] The man in the Gospel parable is not into subtlety. Perhaps, it’s not necessary. He has the money (and the time, or so he thinks) to tear down and rebuild his barns. And, when we are rebuilding something strictly material, we can do that.

However, Jesus – in the parable – is encouraging us not to put our faith in material things …even steel-reinforced concrete.

There are other upgrades, improvements which we do. And, to undertake them requires observation, reflection, discovery, prayer.

[_06_] On This Old House – and usually on E.M.H.E. – they don’t just knock the whole house down. They work with what they have. And, in our daily upgrades – our daily conversion – we are called to do the same.

[_07_] For example, consider the building and renovation and upgrading which mothers and fathers do for their children.

To help a child grow in wisdom and intelligence and maturity requires the parent exercise authority and also to plan ahead.

This is a huge responsibility. And, it is also an exercise in humility. In the Gospel, John the Baptist describes his relationship to the Lord in a similar way. He says, “he must increase, I must decrease …or he must become greater, I must become less.” (John 3:30).

The same is true in raising a child. As a child grows and receives credit, the parent is not always acknowledged. The parent might not be credited. Yet, it also natural to take a step back and let the child increase while we decrease. This too is a blessing. This is an upgrade.

[_08_] A similar challenge applies to the care of our loved ones who may suffer illness, or disability, or are growing older.

We want to plan and control. And, under such circumstances, we could lose sight of the person. That is, we might add up all the problems, calculating how hard this care is.

Yet, illness and advanced age can be times for special intimacy and love and thanksgiving in the family. This upgrade is also a limited-time offer. Don’t let it expire.

We are called to see the upgrade – and the upside -- even when we are in difficulty. To turn our eyes toward Christ, to meditate on his death and life. We try to die to ourselves each day and to rise to new life.

Because it is not only This Old House which is being upgraded. Through our relationship to Christ, through his rebuilding, his death and resurrection, we too are also worth saving. [_end_]

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