The commercial below focuses on a mother and daughter as the youngster gets ready for the day. There is the mother’s soft presence and support during the morning routine, but there is also her strength, as she makes sure that her daughter is ready for school on time, remembers her backpack, and promises to call (for some unknown reason). Love is not merely about softness; it is also about demands.
I am grateful that Georgia-Pacific (the manufacturer of Angel Soft) has chosen to feature a young girl with Down syndrome in its advertisement. As we all too sadly know, the overwhelming majority of parents (67 percent to over 90 percent, depending on the study/estimate) whose unborn baby is diagnosed with Down syndrome choose to abort the child. This is tragic. Everyone deserves to live. Life takes softness, but it also takes strength. Parents who have children with special needs deserve the softness of our encouraging love and the strength of our supportive love.
GEICO has a new commercial that, in addition to plugging their insurance, speaks to the importance of focus. Having the proper focus can change one’s outlook entirely.
In the commercial below, a youngster’s science fair project brings chaos. One of the parents at the fair barely notices, however, because he is focused on exciting news.
This is our goal: to remain astonished and joyful even in a world that is at times tumultuous and confusing. Astonished and joyful at what? The Good News that Christ has paid the price of our redemption, that God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life, that the Word of the Lord remains forever.
Allow this perspective and focus to keep you serene and joyful even in the current chaotic mess of our society, the failed social experiment of a cultural revolution gone wrong.
The commercial below says this about the car it is advertising:
Three out of four people say this much horsepower is excessive.
Three out of four people are wrong.
If we were for everyone, we’d be for no one.
We can say something very similar about the Church:
Three out of four people say our teachings are excessive, unrealistic (or even impossible), and outdated.
Three out of four people are wrong.
If we sought to please everyone or agree with everyone, we’d be for no one.
The Church does not exist to reflect the views of her members, to please them, or to satisfy the world. Rather, the Church exists to reflect the teachings of her head and founder, Jesus Christ, and to please Him.
Would that we leaders of the Church were as plain-spoken, confident, and clear as is this commercial.
I often post and comment on commercials that seem to hint at the gospel or some virtue, but today I focus on one that shows something wrong.
The commercial features a man who is a new father. Apparently, marriage and fatherhood have caused him to lose his “swagger.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines swagger as follows:
to conduct oneself in an arrogant or superciliously pompous manner; especially: to walk with an air of overbearing self-confidence [*]
The word also brings to my mind the life of some young, single men: drinking, partying, and generally irresponsible, boastful behavior. This, is course, is not something to be desired.
While youthful vigor may have its place, life is supposed to move in stages. Once a man is married, and surely once he is a father, youthful swagger is hardly appropriate. It is time to leave the single life behind and accept the calling to be a good husband and father.
As a priest I often help younger couples in making this transition. They cannot and should not go on living as they did when they were single. Marriage is a new reality. Nothing helps you to grow up the way getting married and having children do!
This is a good thing, though. Swagger usually bespeaks frivolity, phoniness, and immaturity. Our modern culture holds up youth as an ideal and seems to want to extend adolescence interminably.
In the commercial, the “friend” who comes to rescue his buddy from the world of marriage and fatherhood and get him back his swagger is not a friend at all; he is more of a tempter. There’s nothing wrong with feeling young, but maturing and accepting responsibilities is a good thing, not something from which to be rescued.
Below is an older Mercedes Benz commercial. In it, Satan promises a young man the pleasures of the world if he will just sign on the dotted line. Not only will he get a free Mercedes Benz but all the things supposedly go with it: beautiful women, fame, money, popularity, and excitement.
The man weighs paying the price of the Mercedes against entering into a partnership with the Devil and chooses the former. Do not miss the meaning of the names “Mercedes” (mercy) and “Benz” (brave). Mercy is worth more than anything else, no matter how fleetingly pleasurable; for the mercy of the Lord endures forever while the trinkets of the Devil are but for a time. In financial terms, you might say that mercy has positive leverage while the Devil’s payouts have diminishing returns. If the Devil gives you a payout, you’ll watch it diminish with each passing day, but God’s grace and mercy grow to yield an abundant harvest. There may be the cross and the deferral of pleasure, but just wait until you see the harvest! One must bravely (“benz”) reach out for mercy (“mercedes”).
In the commercial the man considers all of Satan’s trinkets compared to the glories of mercy and chooses mercy. He knows the cost but considers it acceptable if he can but have mercy for himself without the Devil as partner. How about you?
There is a final detail worth noting in the commercial: At the bottom of Satan’s proffered contract are a backward Chi Rho (the Greek abbreviation for “Christ”) and the Latin inscription Sigilla posuere magisterdiabolus et daemones (master seal of the devil and demons). The backward letters recall an image of the anti-Christ, and the Latin text more literally means “A seal to set the devil and demons (as) master.”
In the end, that is the choice. You will have the master you choose, and the Lord reminds us that we can choose only one:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. (Matt 6:24).
Whose coins are in your pocket? Whose seal is on them? The choice is yours. You are free to choose, but you are not free not to choose. You can have it all now, or bravely store it up for later:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:19-21).
Why not be Benz (brave) and choose Mercedes (mercy)?
In the end, Scripture is fulfilled for the young man: Resist the Devil and he will flee (James 4:2).
I usually like to keep things light on Friday evening when I post. And the video at the bottom of the page is something of a spoof on drug commercials, treating sin like a drug. Wait till you hear the side-effects disclaimer at the end. 🙂
I also thought today of doing a little post on the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance since I was talking to a parishioner today, who is suffering because his employer has not paid him for three weeks. The employer, a government agency says this is due to “administrative difficulties” in the bureaucracy where he works. He was angry (rightfully so) and getting desperate. I reminded him that withholding wages was a sin that cried to heaven and that God was angry with him. The rest of our conversation I’ll keep private.
With that painful situation in mind and how the negligent sin of one affects another, it occurs to me offer a few lists of sins, that may prove as helpful reminders to all of us in our struggle against it. Sometimes it helps to see sin in categories and to be able to “name the demons,” as a help to combat them. These are just a few helpful lists. There are others and I invite you to add to them. For the sake of brevity, I do not fully develop them all.
In keeping with the video below, consider these lists a kind of “Sin on Sale” a clearance sale if you will. The lists below can be purchased separately or together in packages. But do beware of the potential and likely side-effects!
The sins that cry to heaven for vengeance: (CCC 1867)
Murder (Gn 4:10),
Sodomy (Gn 17:20-21),
Oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23),
Defrauding workers of their just wages (Jas 5:4).
Seven Deadly Sins
Sins against the Holy Spirit:
Obstinacy in sin,
Deliberate resistance to the known truth.
Sins against faith: (CCC 2088-2089)
Hesitating doubt – delaying the overcoming of doubts, difficulties, or objections due to indifference or laziness
Voluntary doubt – disregarding of the truth or on-going resistance to overcoming doubt.
Incredulity – willful refusal to assent to revealed truths of the faith.
Heresy – the choosing and over-emphasizing of certain truths of the faith to the exclusion of others.
Schism – Refusal of submission to the Pope or Catholic communion.
Apostasy – Total repudiation of the Christian faith.
Sins against God’s love: (CCC 2094)
Sloth – sorrow or aversion at the good things offers to the soul
Hatred of God – usually rooted in prideful notion that refuses to be second to God.
Sins against the Honor that is Due to God – (CCC 2111-2117)
Superstition – the elevation of certain practices such that they are regarded as more important or powerful than prayer or trust in God.
Idolatry – divinizing what is not God, false worship, holding creatures more precious than the one Creator who is God.
Divination – undertaking practices meant to disclose the future, e.g. horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, recourse to mediums etc.
Magic and spiritism – attempts to tame occult powers and place them at our service, or to have power over others in this way.
Sins of Irreligion: (CCC 2118-2128)
Tempting God – Putting God to the test
Sacrilege – stealing sacred things, profaning sacraments or liturgical actions, desecration or speaking irreverently of sacred persons, places or things that are blessed or consecrated to God.
Simony – Buying or selling spiritual things, seeking to profit on them merely because they are blessed.
Atheism – Denying the existence of God, to include the practical atheism of materialism and utopian notions that man can save himself.
Agnosticism – an indifference toward God that refrains form formally denying his existence.
Sins against the name of God: (CCC 2142-2155)
Promises – infidelity to promises or oaths made with God’s name
Profanity – using God’s name in vain ways that do not respect its sacred character, (e.g. empty expressions like “Oh my God!”
Blasphemy – to speak ill of God, trivialize, curse or ridicule him. By extension, to ridicule sacred things or the Saints.
Swearing – calling God to witness in matters that are trivial. Also swearing a false oath, committing perjury when under oath.
Cursing – using God’s name to curse or call down evil on others.
Sins against the Lord’s Day: (CCC 2185)
Refusing the worship owed God
Refusing the joy proper to the Lord’s day
Refusing the relaxation of mind and body commanded on the Lord’s day.
Refusing reasonable works of mercy proper to the Lord’s day.
Sins Against life: (CCC 2268-2283)
Intentional homicide – all unjust killing
Acting with reckless disregard for the safety and life of our self or others
Sins against Chastity: (CCC 2351-2357)
Lust – willfully entertaining inordinate or disordered desires for sexual pleasure
Sins of Injustice and theft: (CCC 2409ff)
Deliberately keeping lent things
Damaging the goods of others without restitution
Paying unjust wages
Forcing up prices
Refusing to pay debts
Work poorly done
Excessive and wasteful practices
Excessive and unnecessary exploitation of natural resources
Refusing our legitimate obligations to the community
Refusing our legitimate obligations to the poor
Just a few helpful lists drawn from the Catechism with reference also to the Catholic Source Book and other places.
So there it is a clearance sale on sin. Now here’s a word from our sponsor!
The advertisement below depicts all kinds of animals screaming in fear at the thought of a shark. Sharks do indeed inspire fear.
What is interesting is that Scripture says it is not sharks that inspire fear among the animals; it is we:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are delivered into your hand (Gen 9:1-2).
While some larger animals occasionally attack (and even kill) human beings, such occurrences are rare and typically a result of fear we have incited in them. Even the fiercest predators generally avoid us, only engaging when they feel threatened. We are not a staple of any animal’s diet. In this matter we are unique, and we manifest the authority and stewardship God gave us over all living things.
Consider well, then, our dignity and responsibility as those appointed by God to oversee His creation.
There are many causes for our cultural meltdown, but given our directive to be Christ’s light to the world, we must admit that to some degree we are answerable for the current state of affairs.The cauldron in Europe resulted in two World Wars largely fought in “Christian” Europe. Further, the widespread abandonment of the Faith in Europe does not bode well for anyone. We in the West often point to cite disarray and corruption in places like Africa, but Europe has been the site of bloodbaths for thousands of years, the last two thousand of which happened in a supposedly Christian Europe. In the past several decades we have seen an utter moral rebellion in the wake of a century of European war. Yes, we who would preach Christ cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility for the condition the world.
When I saw the commercial below, I felt a twinge of guilt. The words of a poem by William Butler Yeats came to mind:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Yes, something struck me. In the commercial, anarchy, destruction, injustice, violence, and pure chaos are shown. Yet all the while our superhero, with his “bat phone” screeching in the background signaling a call for help, is wholly distracted, mindlessly flipping through the channels unaware that the world around him is descending right into Hell. He is turned inward, focused on his own little world.
Is this what we’re doing? Are we the superhero slouching on the couch as the world and Western culture descend into a maelstrom? We see the things of which Yeats wrote: lost innocence, the blood-dimmed tide of the 20th century with perhaps more than 100 million people put to death in war and for ideological reasons, and moral anarchy swept in by the four horsemen of the apocalypse—relativism, secularism, individualism, and the sexual revolution.
While the wicked have been marching with passionate intensity, the good have largely been asleep, lacking the zeal for battle. All around us are divorce, abortion, teenage pregnancy, rampant sexually transmitted diseases, broken families, increasing lack of self-control and discipline, declining school test scores and graduation rates, the inability to live within our means, rising poverty rates for children, drug and alcohol addiction, plummeting Church attendance—the list could go on and on.
Where have we been as a Church—as Christians—in a world gone mad? Where, for example, was the Church in 1969, when “no-fault divorce” laws began to be passed? It would seem that we were inwardly focused: moving furniture around in our sanctuaries; tuning our guitars; and having endless debates about liturgy, Church authority, and why women can’t be ordained. These are not unimportant issues, but while we were so focused on them, we lost the culture.
Yes, it happened on our watch. I am old enough that I can no longer heap all the blame on the previous generation. Even during my relatively short lifetime, I have seen the world as I knew it largely swept away, especially in terms of family life. Now it is up to me to try to make a difference.
How about you? It will take courage and an increasing conviction to live the Catholic faith openly. No more of this “undercover Catholic” stuff; no more trying to fit in and be liked. It is long past midnight for our culture, our families, and our children.
There is something very wrong with the scenario in the commercial: the superhero ignores the cries for help. It’s time for our superhero to get off the couch, pick up the phone, re-engage, and get to work. It is interesting to note that the movie he is watching shows a wolf being set loose. Jesus says, Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (Matt 7:15). Indeed, many wolves preaching (false) tolerance and spouting other pleasantries have badly misled people and spread error, calling “good” what is sinful and misrepresenting biblical tradition.
Well, fellow superheroes, the last time I checked, we are supposed to be salt and light for the world. It’s time—long past time—to bring Christ’s power back to this world. It’s time for us to get off the couch, pick up the phone, re-engage, and get to work.