If you had the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl half-time show last weekend you saw that there were a number of symbolic messages that were being sent by the producers and main performer of the show; interestingly, variations on these messages continued to be sent throughout the game in the form of the commercials.
The singer Bruno Mars’ half-time performance sent one specific message – one specific word – that flashed three times behind him at the beginning of his act, the word was: prepare.
Prepare. But prepare for what?
The verb prepare in and of itself, is a neutral word. It means to “to make someone or something ready.” A negative intonation on that word might carry the meaning that we are to prepare for a terrorist attack, war, plague, the collapse of the dollar, or increased government dysfunction.
But our concern here is about our Catholic identity and even though much of the world has either turned against Christianity or is indifferent to it, let’s look on the positive side, and say that we are to prepare for something good, something holy, even if, in the process, we might become uncomfortable.
Only the producers know the answer as to why the message to “prepare” was used so often during some of the Super Bowl commercials and half-time show; yet, does its presence last Sunday, in the light of this Sunday’s Scriptures, carry a message for us now?
Figuratively when we chew on the hearty meal that is our Holy Scripture we experience personalities called by God, who at first, are reluctant to prepare and respond to His call.
For example, Moses tells God that he is frightened to speak to the people. The prophet Isaiah humbly tells the Lord that impure speech has passed his lips and this makes him unfit to be His prophet. Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bluntly says that she is too old and tired to have a child; and Peter confesses that he is just too sinful. In Sunday’s Epistle, Paul declares to the Corinthians that he came to their sophisticated audiences with “weakness, fear, and much trembling.”
To their credit all of these people ultimately prepared and responded with a sense of hope and trust. From their witness we learn that nothing is impossible with God; for He takes ordinary people and, through His grace and their prayerful preparation, transforms them into His salt, light, and lampstand. He does this so that His disciples may enhance the bland flavor of today’s society and preserve and penetrate it with the richness of Christ’s message, thereby becoming a welcomed light that guides people on their spiritual journey.
So the challenge of Sunday’s Gospel is “Do we exclude ourselves from the promise of discipleship because of our lack of preparation?”
Now, you could say “Well let the ordained clergy do it: the deacon, the priest, the bishop. Or, let the brotherhood or sisterhood do it, because I’m just too busy or I’m not “called” in a formal way.” But if we hold that attitude we are ignoring the grace of our Baptism and Confirmation, we are rejecting the truth that we are all called and gifted.
Now what does preparation entail? It demands that we pray and continuously use the Sacraments available to us, especially Reconciliation, so that grace may transform us into disciples that are the salt of the earth.
Isaiah reminds us today, “to share our bread, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, and clothe the naked when you see them.” He clearly tells us “Do not turn your back on your own.” But important as that work is, we are not called to be just a Church of social workers. We are called to be a holy Church, a pure Church, a prayerfully prepared Church that responds to the Redemptive act of Jesus’ life so that our family and friends will be transformed, through God’s grace and our efforts, into fellow disciples of Christ.
As we begin thinking about the Lenten season, let us double our efforts this year to be prayerfully prepared for whatever may happen, and with confidence put our fear, weakness, and trepidation aside and give glory to Our Heavenly Father, by radiating the love and truth of Jesus to those around us.
Copyright © 2011- 2014 Deacon Paul O. Iacono. All Rights Reserved. Photo courtesy of: Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio (from his Facebook Timeline Photos).