16 Jun 2013
Fr. Randolph Calvo 2013
“A Pharisee invited [Jesus] to dine with him, and [Jesus] entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.” (Luke 7:36)
In the name …
There’s been a lot in the news recently about data mining. Companies and even our government are studying our on-line profiles. Every time we share something on the internet with other people it’s somehow being counted and added to our profile. Each website that we visit is further defining who we are to complete strangers. Whenever we make an on-line purchase or even look to buy something, our preferences are being calculated by businesses. This is why it may not be a half-bad idea to start poking around the internet randomly to throw them off the trail. Type in something about cats and then modern dance and then what’s exciting to do in Wichita.
Way back in January of 1985 before there was an internet or a Google or a Facebook, Larry Hunter, who is now a professor at the University of Colorado, published an article warning us about digital privacy. He saw that the more we relied on computers and the more we shared through computers the more we would lose control of our privacy and even our freedom of choice. This past week, for example, I was looking for information about buying new shades for the rectory. As soon as I did that, every time I went onto the internet an ad would pop up trying to sell me their shades. To a certain extent this can be helpful, but we have to realize that companies aren’t targeting me with shade advertisements just to make my life easier. They’re not profiling me for my best interest; they’re doing so in their best interest. Information tracking and the advertising that flows from it is designed to create a desire that wouldn’t exist without it, that tries to influence me to act in ways that I wouldn’t act otherwise. It’s helpful to a degree, but we can’t ignore that it’s also selfish.
Today is Father’s Day, a day to celebrate the ideal of fatherhood and the men who do their best to put that ideal into practice the best that they can. That means the men who care for their families selflessly. There is so much in our world that is selfish that we take selfish for granted. I am probably more bothered by being tracked and profiled than my kids and their friends are, and by those who are even younger. They accept a lot of that Big Brother intrusion as just a part of life. They probably don’t even think about it very much. We’re so accustomed to selfish that we’re used to it. This is also why the selflessness of those who take fatherhood seriously is to be honoured on at least this one day each year because it is so out of the ordinary.
Fatherhood is not about making a baby. It’s about nurturing a son or daughter. To the degree that a father invests himself in his child or children that is the truest mark of fatherhood. And I think Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel speak to this reality. I think this morning’s Gospel story is one of the most revealing about the character of Jesus. He is invited to a respectable man’s home for dinner. Jesus could have taken this opportunity to advance Himself in the eyes of His community, His societal betters. Jesus is invited to Simon the Pharisee’s home. He reclines at table with this respectable gentleman. And then a woman of ill repute enters the picture. She makes a scene. Jesus now has to make a choice. Does He choose to distance Himself from this humbled woman and advance Himself in the eyes of Simon and his peers or does Jesus acknowledge her and accept her act of appreciation?
The Jesus who means so much to my faith embraces the woman. She realizes that in Jesus she has been forgiven by God, that she has been seen by Jesus as something more than just her reputation. Jesus acknowledges the person rather than her scandal. And Jesus realizes and reveals that the degree to which a person is forgiven is the degree to which that person can in turn love. Simon had his mind already all made up about this woman. He wouldn’t forgive and that meant she wouldn’t get the change to show real love. Jesus is so different because He sees what’s possible. The other respectable ones at the table argue among themselves about the theological implications of Jesus daring to forgive in God’s name. For them this was blasphemy. But Jesus, I imagine, never took His eyes off of the woman, never let their gossip about her or their indignation at Him, distract Him from letting this unknown woman, who by the way is not Mary Magdalene from the following story, know that she was important to Him and to God, that she mattered for who she was.
A father is often like this, attuned in a special way to his child or children. Hopefully, he sees in them what can be, and loves them for who they are, not only for what they do. And just like Jesus realized that the more a person is forgiven by God the more that person can love. So I think it’s also fair to say that the more a son or daughter is loved the more they also can love in turn. This is why the selflessness of a father is so important and is to be honoured and celebrated today. It’s evidence of the fact that where the usual standard is selfishness in the world, in the family it is its opposite. For all of the fathers who are with us today, for all the fathers we hold dear in our memories, today we thank those men who have counted their children as a priority, who have been there for their families selflessly, for the example of love offered so that the next generation can also love, for these fathers we offer thanks and appreciation, in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Rev. Randolph Calvo