19th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

This is one of my favorite jokes from the 1980s from the deadpan comedian Steven Wright.  It is a little subtle so wait for it.  “What… if… it… were…. really… all… about… the… Hokey… Pokey?”  I have been thinking about this lately because we seem to have some confusion about which ideas are big enough to let it be what it is all about.  I saw a car commercial bragging about technology, and the potential buyer said, “Wi-fi in the car.  That’s the dream.”  Really, that’s the dream.  Then there was a radio commercial which asked what brings people together than anything else.  I was intrigued.  After all, bringing people together seems part of my job description.  Then a chorus yelled, “T-SHIRTS!” and my heart fell.

People increasingly have a hard time telling the difference between the immediate and the ultimate and this is bad news for religion for the ultimate is what we are all about.  I wish we could regain some ground in the popular culture. Wouldn’t it be great if the car salesman were to say, “No the dream is a kingdom and justice, love and peace.  Or when asked, if everyone were to say, what brings people together, we could all cry out, “The Eucharist!”  Finally, we could even change the song:

You put your right hand here [touch forehead]

You put your right here [touch chest]

You touch both your shoulders

And you pray it all about

This is important business because we all need something ultimate in our life.  A leading cause of depression is not having meaning in life or not knowing our destiny.  When we settle for something that will not completely satisfy, when we lower the bar of true wonder, true completeness, we will only know emptiness.   If what we set our sights on is too small, too tangible – if we place all our faith in what material possession we obtain, what position we attain or what political philosophy we espouse, we are selling cheap in an expensive market.  And once we have made our very limited goals, we cannot rest.  We are just a bear that climbed a mountain only to see another mountain it must climb.

That is the quandary of the crowd that surrounds Jesus.  Everything they could have dreamed of is being offered them by the Lord himself.  He is promising to draw them closer to the Father.  To be present for them always and forever in a demonstration of ultimate love.  He is even saying to believe in him means that they will live forever.  He answers every ultimate concern, but all they can see is the immediate. ““Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?  Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  They resist opening their imaginations; they only can admit to what they think they know.  And the promise of peace forever floats by them, desperately close to their hungering hearts.

Yet, we cannot say we are far different from them.  The mundane is easily confused with the sublime and our priorities do not always reflect those of a people touched by the grace of God.  For example, think of what is most precious. Do not think of things, do not use nouns.  Just think of what you want to feel like, what you want to be.  I will give you a minute.

Did you think of peace?  Did you think of joy, of mercy?  Did you think of love?  Now look at your calendar this week and count up how many things have anything to do with what you thought. I know when I look at my calendar, it says one thing only – get me ready for vacation by next weekend!  Yet, our focus is so sternly on what is in front of us, we often lose vision of what awaits us. We are so preoccupied in what we do, we usually forget why we doing them.

Do not be like the crowd in the Gospel. Do not let salvation and peace just slip by.  Emanating from this table is the very bread life who spoke to the crowd. He will offer you today in the form of his body and blood everything that he offered them:  to draw closer to the Father, his abiding and loving presence in our lives and eternal life.  He will quench the thirst and satisfy the hungering heart.  His love is the answer to the dreams we hold deeply.  Let us say yes to the peace that does not end; let us dwell in the warmth of God’s friendship; let us bask in the love of Christ Jesus. After all, that is what it is all about.