The Word of Life Unedited

January 22, 2012

Fr. Bill Garrott, O.P. is prior of St. Louis Bertrand in Louisville, KY. He is also a mission preacher and a former director of vocations. Here is the text from his Sunday homily. The cathode ray tube TV is now obsolete. The flat screen TV is in. Razor sharp images. Extra wide screens. The new TVs have a draw back though. If the screen isn’t adjusted properly, everyone looks shorter and 10 pounds heavier. Last week while visiting my sister, I offered to adjust the screen to make the people look normal. “Don’t touch it!” she said “because I’ll never figure out how to change it back when you leave!” So we watched people on TV who appeared to be crushed by the gravitational pull of the planet Jupiter. How many times have you heard this blurb just before a movie plays: “This movie has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your screen.” The problem is that movie theater screens are still much wider than the your new TV. And when you do watch a TV movie in its original version, you see a dark border above and below the picture on your TV. That’s when you say, “Why did we spend a fortune on a 50 inch screen if 1/3 of it isn’t utilized? So to avoid making you feel that irritation, they format movies to fit your entire screen. But something is sacrificed in the process. Namely, what the film director wanted you to see in the first place. When the movie is formatted to fit your screen, another editor zooms in on what he thinks is the most important aspect of the scene. Peripheral characters and details are simply chopped off. And you wouldn’t know unless you saw the original movie. When St. Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians, he expected them to read the whole thing, not just a portion. How could they understand his message from a little portion? They’d miss the big picture. And that’s what could happen with today’s second reading. Paul said “I tell you brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as though not having them.” Well, isn’t that precisely the problem today? Too many married men are living as if they don’t have wives! Look at the stats for marital infidelity, for divorce, for children born out of wedlock, and sad to say, for abortions. Many men think time is running out on their youth and so they prefer to live as if they don’t have wives. And because it’s an equal opportunity world, more woman are beginning to live as if they don’t have husbands. Do you see what I did? I took St. Paul out of context. I narrowed the focus to the literal words and I totally missed St. Paul’s meaning. That’s what can happen when we don’t see the whole picture. If you read the whole letter to the Corinthians, you realize that St. Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to put the Lord first and trust that everything else will follow. One reason marriages are falling apart today is that one spouse expects the other to fulfill what only God can do for us. You hear it in nearly every love song. You’re my everything. You’re my hope, my joy, my desire, my friend. I need you. I can’t live without you. The truth is that no spouse could ever meet that level of expectation. God is our everything. We need God. We can’t live without God. St. Paul knew this. He wanted the Corinthians to gain a faith perspective on marriage. One that puts God first. But what did St. Paul know about marriage? He was a celibate. One reason for a celibate priesthood and religious life is to remind the Church that no human being can ever fill the God-sized hole in the human heart. What if we Catholics spent a little less time watching football on Sunday and a little more time studying the readings at Mass? We’d certainly begin to make more sense of them because we’d get the bigger picture. For instance, we’d find out how Jonah tried to avoid God’s call at first, how he hid himself on a ship and how the crew threw him overboard because he was bad luck, and how a whale swallowed him and coughed him up on the shore of Nineveh so that he had to preach the Word of God to the people any way. It’s a great story! But we miss the bigger picture, if we settle for the narrow slice we hear at Mass. So let me offer you a challenge. Begin reading the Gospel of Mark from the beginning to the end. Do it in one sitting. Get the whole story at once. It’s the shortest of the four Gospels. It won’t take you more than 90 minutes. People burn away a lot more time than that reading the latest novel by Nora Roberts, Stephen King, or Dean Koontz. You don’t have to settle for what the editors of the Sunday Lectionary chose to give us. They had to modify the original version to format it for Sunday Mass. Otherwise, Mass would be four hours long. So take what you hear at Mass and expand on it at home. Break open the Bible, look up the passage and grasp the bigger picture. It’s worth it. Let me conclude by noting that today is the 39th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade which legalized abortion. On January 22, 1973, a majority of Supreme Court justices modified the original Constitution. They formatted it to fit their warped notion of human freedom. To achieve their end, they cut off a significant portion of the whole scene. They edited out the inconvenient reality of human life in the womb and chose to focus on a so-called right to privacy. 39 years later, many Christians are confused about the morality of abortion. The Gospel doesn’t fit our life, so we re-format it. Jesus said “Repent and believe in the gospel” but we find it easier to believe in our life and repent of the Gospel. Today, let’s pray that our nation will not settle for a narrow view of human life. Let’s pray that our nation will once again see the bigger picture, the whole picture of the dignity and sacredness of every human life, born and unborn. Amen.

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