Saturday, July 31, 2010

Homily for 18th Sunday of Ordinary time

Marian Anderson (born Feb. 27, 1897, Philadelphia, Pa., U.S. — died April 8, 1993, Portland, Ore.) U.S. singer. She was immediately recognized for the beauty of her voice and her artistry at her New York City debut in 1924, but the fact that she was black made a concert or opera career in the U.S. impossible. Her London debut in 1930 and tours of Scandinavia established her in Europe, where she worked exclusively until 1935. When she was denied use of Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1939, Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for her to sing at the Lincoln Memorial, and the concert was broadcast to great acclaim. Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, the first performance there by a black singer, took place in 1955, when she was in her late 50s.
The concert impresario Sol Hurok once remarked that Marian Anderson had not simply grown great, she had grown great simply:

"A few years ago a reporter interviewed Marian and asked her to name the greatest moment in her life. I was in her dressing room at the time and was curious to hear the answer.

"I knew she had many big moments to choose from. There was the night Toscanini told her that hers was the finest voice of the century. There was the private concert she gave at the White House for the Roosevelts and the King and Queen of England. She had received the $10,000 Bok Award as the person who had done the most for her home town, Philadelphia. To top it all, there was that Easter Sunday in Washington when she stood beneath the Lincoln statue and sang for a crowd of 75,000, which included Cabinet members, Supreme Court Justices, and most members of Congress."

Which of those moments did Anderson choose? "None of them," Hurok recalled. "Miss Anderson told the reporter that the greatest moment of her life was the day she went home and told her mother she wouldn't have to take in washing anymore."

I spent a day and a half last weekend at a seminar at Cardinal Stritch retreat house in Mundelein. The object of the seminar was to discuss the presentation of the Church’s position on same sex union in a manner that is both true and charitable.

Coleen Kelly Mast, one of the hosts of "The Doctor is In" on Ave Maria radio, in speaking on traditional marriage made a very telling distinction that, I believe, ties in well with the Scriptures today. She made the point that the ultimate goal of marriage is fulfillment for the individuals. That fulfillment comes from seeking the good of the other; it is a fruitful, mutual, self-giving. By contrast, same sex unions are by nature unfruitful and have the less lofty goal of gratification rather than fulfillment.

The thought of the distinction between gratification and fulfillment has remained with me for much of the past week. We live in a culture that constantly tells us to seek gratification, yet we long for fulfillment. The advertising industry is based upon implanting the thought in our minds that our lives are incomplete. They create false needs and then offer products designed to satisfy those needs.

We have become a nation of addicts seeking satisfaction, seeking gratification in the things of the world. As junkies seek heroin or cocaine, or alcoholics seek booze for momentary gratification, we are taught to seek money, power, prestige, possessions to satisfy our own needs.

Yet, like the junkie and the alcoholic, we never have enough. There is always the larger salary, the bigger home, the more luxurious car, the more exotic vacation, the newer video game that holds the promise of gratification. But none of these offer fulfillment.

You see, gratification is directed to the self and is sought outside the self. Fulfillment is directed toward others and toward God and is to be sought within ourselves and within our relationships.

Like Marian Anderson, we find our greatest moment, our fulfillment not in personal achievement, but in living for others. As Christians we judge our success not by the square footage of our homes, the number or cost of our automobiles, the balances in our bank or investment accounts, but rather in how closely we conform to the image of Christ.

As Christians, how do we measure our success? We look into the mirror and ask how closely we resemble the figure on the cross. As Paul said, “Stop lying to one another… You have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self.” So we are to seek what is above.

John Paul II put it this way in his address to the youth of the world gathered in Rome in 2000:

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness, he is waiting for you when nothing else satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity…..
That is why we come here today and every Sunday. We come not for the gratification of hearing some preacher, beautiful music or elaborate pageantry. We come for the fulfillment of uniting ourselves with Jesus Christ. We come here to receive that to which we aspire. By nourishing ourselves with the body of Christ, may we conform ourselves more closely to Him and strive for the wealth that will last forever.

For in the end, we take with us only that which we have given away.

the homily as delivered in in mp3 format at

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