“Desire is half of life; indifference is half of death.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation?” Jesus asks the crowd on hand in today’s Gospel (Luke 7:31-35). He goes on to liken them to insouciant children, who “sit in the marketplace and call to one another.”
“We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep,” Jesus says, exposing the unreasonableness of unbelief. “For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’“
The hearts of the faithless and unconverted certainly possess a keen sense of rationalization, a sort of heads I win, tails you lose mentality, but is that what’s really going on here? It would seem as though their petulance was a front for their sheer indifference to God‘s salvific message, and thus the real cause of our Savior’s lament.
Religious indifference continues to afflict our society today. You’ll notice I call it religious indifference, not spiritual indifference. For if I had a nickel for every person I’ve met who’s told me “I’m spiritual, but not religious” I could acquire Amazon.com from Jeff Bezos in an all-cash deal. Being spiritual but not religious is akin to admiring Jesus but not following him. Admiring Jesus, or anyone for that matter, is pretty easy. Following Jesus on the other hand is tougher. You might be the source of derision around the water cooler. Your boyfriend or girlfriend might leave you. Maybe you’ll have to give up your obsession with what other people think of you.
Curiously enough though, there’s no lack of passion whatsoever when the topic shifts to more secular and fleeting matters. With less than fifty days to go until the 2020 Presidential Election, there are millions upon millions of people in this country who are utterly transfixed on the media coverage and subsequent outcome. One need only turn on the TV or scroll through their Facebook Feed to confirm that. For many, the results of this election, wherein the winner will be the President of the United States for a stretch of about 1,460 days ~ a mere drop in the proverbial ocean against the back drop of eternity and eternal life ~ after which another presidential election will be held to see who will reign for the next 1,460 days ~ yet another minuscule droplet ~ is the “most important election of our lifetime.“ I could’ve sworn the titans of the cable airwaves in their purple ties and perfect hair said precisely the same thing four years ago. As Dallas Cowboys running back Duane Thomas said on the eve of Super Bowl VI to a breathless young reporter who asked him how he prepared for a game of such enormous consequence, “If the Super Bowl is such a big deal, why do they play it every year?” Thomas by the way would go on rush for 95 yards and a touchdown as his Cowboys easily vanquished the Miami Dolphins 24-3. For the record, Super Bowl VII went off as planned the following January.
On the topic of football, tomorrow night when the Cleveland Browns square off against the Cincinnati Bengals in Primetime, you can rest assured that the state of Ohio will have chosen their sides and dug their orange heels squarely in the dirt (or artificial turf as the case may be), faces painted, beer chilled, and flat screens tuned in, this despite the fact that regardless of the outcome, neither of these two teams will even sniff the Super Bowl this year. Neither will be in the running for even the fleeting “perishable crown” that Saint Paul spoke of a few days ago in 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-27 https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Running-to-Win.
Yet with all this enthusiasm splashing and spilling over at every secular turn, there would seem to be a generally blasé attitude towards that which will ultimately prepare us for eternal life and the beatific vision of God in the Kingdom that will have no end. The sin of presumption has lead many to believe that it’s a lock, a guarantee, that he or she will land in Heaven for eternity. They figure hell is reserved for killers and those who knock off liquor stores or sleep with their best friend’s wife, although based on what you see on television these days, the latter sin, mortal as it may be in the eyes of God, is merely portrayed as everyday live in suburbia. As Pope Pius XII once grimly pointed out, “the greatest sin today is that man has lost the sense of sin.” When one loses the sense of sin, the sense of the Kingdom is sure to follow it out the door.
Still many others have come to believe that hell does not even exist, this despite the fact that Jesus speaks of it on numerous occasions throughout Scripture. Others simply do not bother to think about etetnity at all, choosing instead to anesthetize themselves with marathon Netflix sessions, video games and Reality TV.
“I can just watch Mass on TV.” This is the Post-COVID mindset of many, a mindset that will inevitably and sadly become a habit for many as well. Yet when these same people are hungry, they do not turn on the TV and watch a McDonald’s Commercial. Romanian born novelist, political activist and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said “the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”
I had a Pastor back in the days when I lived in Hoboken, New Jersey who would frequently say “I wanna get Heaven...and I wanna take all of you with me.” Not only did he say it often but it was made manifest in his hands-on involvement with the Parish RCIA Program, the Community Outreach Programs such as the food bank, and the palpable enthusiasm he showed in preaching the Gospel and celebrating the Holy Mass. His life was “Heaven-centric” https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Becoming-Heaven-Centric and he strongly encouraged others to rearrange their lives in order that they too would live in such a way. The great Saint John Vianney would embolden his Congregation in a similar fashion. “O my dear parishioners, let us endeavor to get to heaven! There we shall see God. How happy we shall feel! If the parish is converted we shall go there in procession with the parish priest at the head . . . We must get to heaven!”
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for them that love Him.” These are the words of Saint Paul in Scripture when he spoke of the splendor of Heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9). Further, he tells us that “the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed to us“ (Romans 8:18). Saint Teresa of Avila said that she would rather suffer all the afflictions of this world, even to the end if time, if she could thereby merit just a little more glory in Heaven. In his book “The Happiness of Heaven,” Father J. Boudreau explains that “in Heaven, no one can look upon the glorious sight of God without great joy and without becoming God-like and beautiful himself. Thus, a soul in Heaven is filled to overflowing with all knowledge, it becomes beautiful with the beauty of God, rich with His wealth, holy with His holiness, and happy with his unutterable happiness.”
May the indifferent among us rid themselves, we pray, of their apathy, coming to truly understand that the greatest ambition that anyone can have in this world is to rejoice eternally in the uninterrupted vision of God.
For more on today’s 1st Reading, please revisit my Reflection from last year: