29th Sunday Ordinary Time – OK, I’m from Nebraska. Get over yourselves!
I grew up in Nebraska and am a fan of Nebraska football and have been since 1962. I recalled the “Game of the Century” in my homily Sunday – Nebraska vs. Oklahoma in 1971. Titans clashed. Back and forth, forth and back. And Nebraska won, thanks in a major part to this amazing punt return by Johnny Rogers. I watched the game, pretty much by myself. Afterwards, wearing my red NEBRASKA shirt, I marched up and down West Pine Blvd. singing the Nebraska fight song.
I was huge with pride at that victory. I now realize, however, that rejoicing in that victory, wearing my NEBRASKA shirt, and rejoicing in my attachment to being connected to a successful team was all directed toward propping up my fundamental sense of inferiority. This is what my idolatry looks like. Yours?
And that, brothers and sisters, was what was revealed in the gospel story when the Pharisees produced the denarius with the face of Tiberius Caesar on it. It unmasked them as idolaters. They knew that God had forbidden the making of any image of God at all. Judaism still does that. Yet they held the coin of the realm with the face of the Roman god Tiberius on it. Go figure.
Deuteronomy 4:15–17 Since you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure—the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air…
I submit that we are all idolaters, whether explicitly or implicitly. Here in Milwaukee, Packer fans and Wisconsin fans and Marquette fans wear the signs of their gods. They wear them to church, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s an unconscious display of allegiance to another god that identifies us with the team we need to be successful so as to keep us from falling into deep pools of inferiority.
You do it. I do it. What if we each had our most basic allegiances unmasked so that we could see a bit better how we all pray with divided hearts.
And the good news is this: Christ has already opened up the back door to our private hells wherein we maintain allegiances with other gods. He calls to us continually to follow him out of our prisons and into the new creation. Perhaps we might sense this call and follow.
GO BIG RED!