Whom do you serve?

Seldom have I found much use for opinion polls or surveys. First and foremost because they are neither objective nor fact but, by definition, the collective views of a supposedly random sampling of those who just happen to have an opinion, which excludes absolutely no one at all.

Walking Away

For if there is a thing which every human being—man, woman, or child—shares in vast overabundance it is opinion. That is not to suggest that opinions are either right or wrong, good or bad, but rather that they are personal. Opinions, like fingerprints, eyeballs, and earlobes, are each unique, mined and forged from the ores of experience, personal taste and hearsay; not necessarily—if at all—based on proven fact, reasoned knowledge or objective truth.

Being of a personal nature, most opinion is benign and appropriate for a given situation, such as choosing which color to paint a bedroom or what type of flooring to install. Such decisions are made not on facts but on one’s opinion, that is, one’s personal and subjective tastes. There is, after all, no one color to paint a bedroom, just as there are many choices in flooring from which to choose. Such opinions are of the kind suggested by the proverb, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” or the old saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure;” perfectly benign and decidedly personal. It matters not in the slightest whether others might hold a different view—unless of course, their opinion matters a great deal to you.

There is, however, a different flavor to opinion polls and surveys: often too acidic or over-salted, over-the-top sweet or bitter to the tongue. Polls and surveys presuppose collective opinion, otherwise known as groupthink, providing a carefully crafted selection of ingredients so as to bake a “popularity cake” to serve the gullible and those too lazy to think for themselves.

For anyone under the age of 50 this may be hard to believe, but there was a time—before the mid-1970s—when the majority of people were of the mind that God and faith and religion were as essential as breathing and as normal as eating dinner together or sitting down to watch “Life is Worth Living” on Sunday evening, presented by then Archbishop of New York, Fulton J. Sheen.

Catholicism and God were, for thirty minutes, broadcast live on television and were welcomed into American homes of all faiths and beliefs. And no one found it strange or abnormal or harmful or disgusting or bigoted; no one considered it hate speech!

In 1974, Archbishop Sheen began one of his shows with these words:

First of all, we are at the end of Christendom. Now not Christianity, not the Church. Remember what I am saying. Christendom is economic, political, social life as inspired by Christian principles. That is ending—we’ve seen it die. Look at the symptoms: the breakup of the family, divorce, abortion, immorality, general dishonesty. We live in it from day to day, and we do not see the decline. We take it for granted—we get used to things, and almost accept them as the rule. … the press that we read, the television that we see, is in no instance inspired by Christian principles. As a matter of fact, there is, on the part of many of us, the tendency to go down to meet the world—not to lift the world up. We are afraid of being unpopular—so we go with the mob.

Implied in his opening statement are two points which we heard in today’s readings to which I will address my remaining remarks.

Upon the death of Moses, Joshua was appointed by God to lead the people of Israel across the Jordan into the promised land. When he had grown old he called the people together and recalled to them all the promises made and fulfilled by God. He warned them in Chapter 23 that if they transgressed and broke their covenant with God by worshiping and bowing to other gods, the Lord’s anger would cause them to perish from the land which he had given them.

Today’s first reading comes from the final chapter, Chapter 24. We hear but a small portion of it; left out is the Lord recounting all that he has done for his chosen people. Joshua then says to the people starting with verse 15: “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, … As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

“We will serve the Lord.” Hold on to that thought. I will return to it in a moment.

In the Gospel we heard many of Jesus’ disciples grumbling, murmuring “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” In some translations “saying” is replaced by “teaching;” in either case what the disciples find hard to accept is what Jesus has been telling them, that he is the Bread from Heaven, that unless they eat his flesh and drink his blood they will not have eternal life. And as a result many returned to their former way of life. Does that sound at all familiar to you, today?

How often do we hear someone—even ourselves—complain that some teaching, encyclical, doctrine, or dogma is too rigid, too restrictive, outdated, old-fashioned, unreasonable, or unpopular and therefore can rightly be ignored because it simply doesn’t work for them, or for us. How often do we hear public figures—ordained or laity—claim to be “Catholic” while openly supporting and promoting ideologies and life styles in direct contradiction to the teachings of Christ, his Church, and the magisterium?

How often do we choose to return to our former way of life? Do we serve the Lord, or do we worship and kneel before other gods? Why are we here? Are we here to give praise and thanksgiving to our Lord God and Savior or are we here to socialize, to be entertained, to meet new friends? Or as Archbishop Sheen said 44 years ago, have we gotten so used to the way things are that we have accepted them as the rule. Have we gone down to meet the world, no longer willing to lift the world up? Are we so afraid of being unpopular that we follow whatever is the most popular opinion?

Our faith, our “Catholic” faith, is not a label you can simply pin on your shirt and by doing so call yourself “Catholic.” Those who wear their catholicity so casually hold too high an opinion of themselves, they believe in themselves, they worship none but themselves, they live solely for themselves.

Here, in this holy place, we should be here for one reason and only one: to serve the Lord by giving of ourselves to the One who gave us life, to the One who sent his only Son to save us from our brokenness, to the One who loves us despite our lack of faith.

If we are truly Catholic we will, we must, shout loud against the walls of Jericho: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Are we ready to serve the Lord?

Amen.

Homily #183
Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Joshua 24:1-2A, 15-17, 18B
Ephesians 5:21-32
John 6:60-69

About the Author

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you Deacon Chuck. I really enjoyed hearing your Homily this past Sunday.

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