Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 7 of Season 5 for the third Sunday in ordinary time: January 23, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 1, verses 1-4; and Chapter 4, verses 14-21
Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went, according to his custom, into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings
to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and
recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed
go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“The Bigger Picture of Life” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
We discover a greater depth of human experience when we allow ourselves to be exposed to some of the great wonders of the world and its masters. There is something that is stirred within us whenever, and however, we can begin to drink deeply of all that has gone before us, depending on our needs to do so, and benefit from the talent and the wisdom of what has gone before.
Something stirs within a human heart. When they walk into the Sistine chapel and they're able to partake in and view and absorb the magnificence of Michelangelo's renderings. We are brought to a different place. We're able to walk amidst Roman ruins. To see things as they were constructed centuries before. To marvel at some of the great architecture throughout all of Italy and other places. To be face-to-face with the Cathedral Sagrada Família in Spain, or to walk amongst the Egyptian pyramids. To be able to wonder at what life could have been like as they view the Aztec ruins, or to be caught up in a work done by Picasso, the writings of ee cummings, his poems, and a work by C.S. Lewis. We can still today marvel at the wisdom of Plato, the work of Aristotle, and our human journey today is still influenced by these masters who lived long ago. Their contributions to our human experience are immeasurable.
We listen to a composition by Beethoven, a work by Bach, and we wonder and stand in awe of how all of the components meticulously are woven together. And then we step back and we begin to try to understand the lives of these very talented individuals, these masters. And it doesn't take much to realize that their journeys, for the most part, were not easy ones. That they encountered some very difficult obstacles. They faced challenges, challenges that you and I. would never have to encounter. But they persevered and they're able to produce these beautiful artistic pieces.
We can imagine Michelangelo painting the Sistine chapel, the depth of patience, the amount of love and determination that went into the completion of that work. How many countless hours of time and devotion? The inner struggle that must have gone on in Picasso before he produced one of his works: the thought process. And what was happening in ee cummings before he penned a poem?.
Well, it must've been stirring in the heart of Bach before he ventured forth with another composition. As we begin to ponder these great wonders of life, we begin to see that these great artists took something that was stirring within them and expressed it for no other reason, but to do so. Because they were drawn to it. Compelled to do it. Moved to do it, and had the talent to do it.
And this stirring and this movement within, whether they were able to name it or not, was really a movement toward the sacred, a movement toward the holy, a look at the bigger picture of life. And isn't that what happens to us when we're in the presence of this greatness. When we're actually standing there in front of it and we're looking at the awesomeness of it. Suddenly, the smallness of our lives matters little, and we're brought into this bigger experience of what it means to be a human being and what life is all about.
We mentioned before here, the work of Abraham Maslow, a psychologist and his hierarchy of human needs. And just to refresh our minds a bit about how that works, he said that human beings function best when their needs are met. And he says the basic needs are the physiological needs, food and air and water and those things. And then security needs; the needs to feel safe. Belonging needs: the need to feel a part of a bigger group. Esteem needs: to feel good about myself and have others respect me as well. And then the meaning needs, which is the need for a bigger understanding and purpose of life, but also to contribute to that meaning. And in his later works, he pushes it to a big word called transcendence. That a person has to transcend themselves.
So in other words, ironically, all of that work we've done to meet these needs, we need to leave those and move on to do something else. To invest ourselves in this greater human experience. To leave our contribution, just because. For no merit or return back. To participate in this bigger picture of life that we lose a sense of ourselves, unless we leave ourselves to participate in this bigger picture of life: transcendence. Fancy word for the sacred, for the holy, for God. But see, here's the problem. Here's the problem: we live in a world. And we all follow a lifestyle that is so opposite of that. We are very much today about the easy, the obtainable, the disposable, what I can use, and then discard. How I can get from one point to another the fastest and quickest way. How I can accomplish what I need to accomplish in rapid order. Many live with a minimalist understanding of life, even the way they organize their homes, what they see as important.
Give me the basics of what is necessary and I'll go from there. If I can get a fast meal versus one that is properly cooked, I prefer the quicker avenue to do. That refrigerator that you're probably still paying on, that you just bought in your house has a life expectancy of five years. We have this philosophy and this mentality of the "it's not supposed to last that long" versus creating something that endures. Even the way we approach architecture today is purely on a functional level many times. And when we live in this kind of a lifestyle, when we're adopting this philosophy of life, guess what we sacrifice? We sacrifice beauty. We sacrifice an encounter with the big picture. We sacrifice expressing ourselves for the sake of expressing that self and participating in that big picture. And it's no wonder why so many folks find themselves empty and unhappy and unfulfilled. And this life that is supposed to throw us into amazement and awe keeps us trapped in fear and anxiety.
You know, it's very interesting if you've ever had an opportunity to go to a place like Chatham in Massachusetts, where they have the main street and there are all these little art shops there. Used to be years ago, you used to be able to go in there and you could see actual works that folks would have drawn, would have rendered, using actual paint and a brush, whether it be watercolor or acrylics or whatever media. Now, today, you have to go in there and you have to ask whether what you're looking at is real, or whether it's been produced on a computer or whether it's the result of a program or how it got in the form that is before you, because it may look authentic. It may even feel authentic, but it's not.
And so we live in this disposable world that convinces us that the best way is the quickest way, the easiest way. Then we can hop, skip, and jump over the need for beauty. Think for a moment about the educational system. When a school has to cut a budget, what goes first? Art. Music. When was the last time we ever heard the virtues of philosophy expounded upon in a school? The ability to learn how to think, to understand the world, of who I am. If it's not measurable, it's not profitable. If it can't be put on a multiple-choice test and then graded appropriately to judge whether the student has learned the material and the teacher has done their job, then it's not useful.
And so walking through this very sterile world, we lose the wonder of it all. And here's a question for us today: when was the last time you experienced amazement, wonder, awe? Amazement. Wonder. Awe. If you're anything like me, you're having a hard time identifying that moment because life becomes so rigid. It becomes very predictable, and we lose a sense of that big picture.
You know, Jesus, when he stood in that synagogue, he was the guy down the street, the carpenter's son. And he stood up to do a reading just like Lizbeth did today. She stood up and did the readings that we're so used to hearing. There was nothing different about that passage from the prophet, Isaiah, Jesus didn't write it. He read it. And as the people gathered there, listened to what he was saying, they were intent.
So whatever happened in that experience caused them to think differently about this carpenter's son that they just passed five minutes down the road before they came into that building. There was a conviction behind it. They were intrigued, let's say yes, they were in awe and amazed at this man before them. And they wanted to know more. They wanted to know more about him. Just like we look at Michelangelo's work or Picasso or Bach or Beethoven. Everyone saw that, at one point or another in their lives, "It's just that guy down the street, but look what they did."
We don't really know the depths of what is going on inside of us and what we can contribute out the impact that we can have on that bigger picture. We're afraid. See, Jesus shows us the beauty, the magnificence, the tenderness, and the wonder of God as God is. And it's no wonder that along the way, people were drawn to him because they saw something different.
So here's our challenge this week: to take our nose from below and put it above, to look out, to see that bigger picture of life, to stop for a moment in all of the scurrying and the busyness of our life and just drink it all in. And to see the wonder, the beauty, the magnificence of God and creation and people. To be taken up in awe of life's goodness, and then to realize that the true secret to happiness, the true secret to meaning is to participate in that big picture and to see Jesus Christ as the perfect image of God as the way, the truth and the life, and the means to that end.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.