July 31, 2016 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church
Father Paul Bienvenu and I recently attended a production of West Side Story. The show was sponsored by the Christian Youth Theatre. The budding thespians were mostly high school and college age.
Given their ages and experience, these young performers did a great job. What shocked me was the behavior of the people who attended the show.
I realize that they were probably family and friends of the young performers and possibly not very familiar with theatre etiquette; so I’ll cut them some slack.
But there was an elderly woman in front of me who kept texting throughout the show. There were three ladies behind me who kept talking. There was a woman directly behind me who kept kicking the back of my seat.
And there was a special needs child seated next to us who kept calling out during the performance. He’s the only one who had an excuse for his behavior. At intermission the boy obviously wanted to get to know the people around him and quickly befriended us.
During the second act it became apparent that the boy was not calling out randomly. He was familiar with the show and seemed to be, in some way, participating.
I mean, he could be heard clearly by all the performers and they didn’t seem to mind or be surprised at all.
So I assume that he was known to them personally, probably because he had been at some rehearsals and they knew that he was in the audience at that particular performance.
Once this dynamic was understood the child was no longer a distraction. He was a sweet child.
His mother, not so much. During the first act she could be seen playing on her phone and even had her notifications still turned on. Ding. Ding. Ding.
During the second act the people sitting on the other side of them did not return. In the middle of the performance she got up and moved two seats away from her son, so that she could continue to play on her phone.
Actors report that they can see our cell phones lighting up during performances and that it is very distracting and disheartening. It is also very rude and disrespectful to others who are watching the performance.
Why share this with you? Because these are the very behaviors that Jesus rails against in the gospel.
“No, they are not!” you say. Yes they are! And so are many of the other behaviors we’ve seen in the news recently.
What behavior of the man in Jesus’ tale gets us so upset? Is it that he is rich? It better not be, because that would make us jealous.
It is the reality that he is so caught up in his own little world, that he fails to realize that there are others around him. And that his actions and choices are negatively impacting people.
Greedy. Selfish. Self-absorbed. Entitled.
These are the very behaviors I witnessed. They seem to be behaviors that are becoming more and more commonplace.
God says, “You fools!” But we don’t want to be called fools by God. So this means it’s time for us to wake up and change our ways.
Another way to say this is that we sometimes do things and our response to ourselves should be, “Well, that was stupid. I’d better change. I’d better try harder to be a better person.”
Saint Paul, in the second reading, hints at a remedy. Put to death the evil desire and greed within. Put on a new self in the image of the creator. Put on Christ because Christ is all and in all.
Greed gives way to generosity. Selfishness gives way to self-giving. Self-absorption gives way to awareness. And entitlement gives way to service.
These new traits help us put on Christ.
Generosity: not hoarding our blessings, but sharing them with the people around us.
Self-giving: not looking to take, but looking to give instead.
Awareness: paying closer attention to how our actions affect or even offend those around us.
Service: giving of ourselves in a way that makes our struggling world a better place.
If we begin to do these things, then we will be storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven. And really, that’s the only place we should be storing our treasure.