Sun, 4 October 2020
In this homily on St. Luke 6:31-36, Fr. Anthony develops the idea that that our inability to love well is a result of the way we objectify and commodify things, our neighbor, and the Church. Enjoy the show!
Homily: Loving vs. Commodifying (St. Luke 6:31-36)
Introduction: missing the point
It is hard for us to live the way we should. From our time in Eden to now, we have failed, and the consequences to our hearts, our families, and our world have been disastrous.
One of our challenges is that we do not see things as they really are. We do not see their beauty and we do not see how things are connected. Even for things that are ugly and hard, we do not see the potential for beauty and the potential for blessings. Instead of seeing things in their full splendor, we evaluate them based on what they mean for us; what we can get from them.
We were designed to bring out the best in everything and everyone; to heal those that are hurt and to build up those who are already well towards perfection. But instead of this, we just want to know what we can use things for and what we can get out of people. We are like a hungry man in the middle of a feast who insists on eating his seed corn. It’s destructive and we need to change.
Adam and Eve: Commodifying what they were meant to love
I mentioned Adam and Eve. Think of how they fell. One of the ways to understand this (from St. Nikolai Velimirovich) is that they turned the thing they were meant to tend – the garden – into a commodity; from something that deserved respect and the greatest of care to something that was useful primarily as food. Even the thing God told them not to eat became a commodity to them: they wanted what it offered. And remember what they learned? That it “tasted good.” What a loss.
Hear me well: Adam and Eve were meant to eat the things that grew in the garden, but the availability of food was really just a side-effect (a “positive externality”) of being a good steward. They got it all wrong when they put what they wanted from the garden before their love for it. Instead of tending the garden, they tended to themselves. They forgot about beauty; they forgot about connectedness; they forgot about service.
And We Commodity EVERYTHING!
We are so much worse than they were; our commodification of people and things in this world knows no end. We are always looking for an angle; looking for the best deal.
Again, don’t mishear me: being frugal is part of being a good steward of our resources, but we are missing a side-effect for the main point. Men should not love their wives because they hope for something in return, they should love their wives because they want to help nurture them to perfection (but I am not speaking of marriage but of the Church). Christ does not love us because He wants something from us. He does not sacrifice Himself for us in hopes of getting help with His plan to restore beauty to this world. As we become perfect as God is perfect, we will help Him with this plan; but He sacrifices Himself for us because He sees the potential beauty within us and wants it to grow. He does it because He loves us.
We have to stop looking at one another as things to be used, things that either bring us pleasure or pain. We have to see one another the way God sees us.
More on Blindness: Commodification leads to a lack of proportion
Surely one of the ways we have cursed ourselves with our blindness is that we cannot see the beauty that emanates from all of God’s creatures; the blessings present in every moment.
Why is this so hard? Why are we unable to enjoy the fruits of God’s love for us? Why don’t we see things the way they are? This blindness really is a curse; it pulls us further away from our purpose and robs us of the joy we were meant to have.
There are so many examples in our lives where we are blind to miracles. Yes, the problems are there, but they are so minor compared to the miracles!
Let me give you one example that is so big it cannot help but make this point. It is the example of the Church.
So much of what we do here in Church has been commoditized. For some, our actions become part of our political protest against over-reaching authorities. For others, our rituals become a magnet for our fear of disease or distrust of the other. Even in normal times church can become less a place to experience the transcending and saving grace of God and more a place to give and receive judgment.
Are we really so blind to God’s wonders? Have we no sense of proportion?
God works in this place, it is His very Body and Blood that are offered here – do we understand the magnitude of this miracle? If we focus on the way it is offered – beyond the basic need to protect our health and the dignity of the act - then we have to admit that we do not. Complaining about this is somewhat like the man who is dying of poison complaining to the doctor because the cup containing the necessary antidote to the poison is blue instead of green. Have we lost our minds? Again, do not mishear me; we have to be careful and safe – but we cannot allow this to distract us from celebrating being part of such a wonderful miracle.
Similarly, some people complain about Confession, saying things like; “why do I have to go to the priest for confession?” Here God has given us a way to rid our hearts of the sin that has accumulated in and polluted them, and we complain about the way He has told us to do it. Seriously?
Complaints about the role of bishops, the all-male priesthood, the traditional view of marriage, - everything about the way we do things that we do not like threatens to turn the celebration of God with Us into a series of political or ideological positions that can be analyzed and judged … I do this all the time; I suspect some of you do, too.
We have turned even the Church, the vessel of everything good and true, into a commodity, something to be judged, to be measured, to be evaluated like some product on a grocer’s shelf.
Is it any wonder that we do the same thing with our spouses, our children…our enemies?
Conclusion: Love without reservation
My point is not that the things that attract our attention in this way are not important or that they should not be discussed. Going back to the example of the garden, food is important. If we don’t eat, we die. If we prepare food incorrectly, we die. But Christ reminds us;
“Do not be anxious about what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” (paraphrase of Matthew 6:25).
God is right here with us, working miracles in our midst, and we miss them by focusing on His height (“Oh, is that Jesus; I imagined he’d be taller.”)
Let’s not get distracted. Let’s love without reservation. Let’s love without expecting anything in return.
Let me repeat the irony; if we tend this world – this garden - in love, we will receive what we need – the necessary commodities, if you will, in return. As the Lord says in almost the next breath, if you really love, if you really give of yourself without reservation, then “it shall be given unto you in return; a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over…” (St. Luke 6:38).
And again in St. Matthew (paraphrase of 6:33-34); “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all the things you need will be given to you as well.”
Let’s open our eyes and our hearts to the beauty in this world; the beauty in our neighbor; and the beauty in the Church.