Panasonic now sells the largest flat-panel TV in the world for only $500,000. It’s a whopping 152 inches in diagonal. So if you’ve got a little extra cash on hand and a man-cave the size of a small air-plane hanger, then you’re all set to watch Super Bowl XLVII like you’ve never seen it before. Whether the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers win tonight is immaterial. The Super Bowl isn’t about football anymore. Over the past 20 years, the Super Bowl has been turned into a showcase for the year’s best TV advertisements. A sizeable percentage of people say they watch the game only to see the ads. So the real contest tonight boils down to Bud-light vs. Doritos vs. Volks Wagon. After all, how many Americans remember whether the Giants or the Patriots won last year? But everyone remembers the baby in the sling-shot swing who snatches the bag of Doritos from his older brother. Isn’t it amazing how people continue to argue that what we see on TV has no effect on our behavior? Tell that to the companies shelling out $3.8 million for 30 seconds of commercial air-time! They know precisely the impact TV has on shaping consumer behavior. And yet, when it comes to sex and violence, we’re told that TV doesn’t form culture; it only reflects what’s already going on within the culture. Tell that to the people in Newtown, CT.
TV has enormous power to shape culture and the Super Bowl is the greatest example. Last year an estimated 166 million Americans tuned in to watch at least some part of the Super Bowl. The amount of food eaten during the Super Bowl is second only to Thanksgiving. Are we becoming a nation of passive couch-potatoes who let the culture shape the way we think, feel and act? Or are we prophets called by Almighty God to shape the culture we live in by our faith? As Bl. John Paul II once wrote: “a faith that does not become culture is not fully accepted, not entirely thought out, not faithfully lived.” (John Paul II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Africa, 1995, n. 78). The prophet Jeremiah, St. Paul and our Lord Jesus all draw our attention today to the fact that society has an indispensable need for the voice of the prophet.
From the biblical point of view, a prophet is one who not only foresees the future. More importantly, a prophet is someone who reveals the true meaning of what is happening right now in light of God’s Word. The prophet delivers God’s point of view not as a weapon to beat people over the head but as a word of love pointing out the true path of happiness. If the truth is not conveyed with love, it will accomplish nothing. That was St. Paul’s point in our 2nd reading. The truth in love that I must speak today is this: there are many false prophets today who claim to know the true path of happiness. What is the source of their wisdom? Opinion polls? Dr. Laura? Dr. Ruth? Dr. Phil? Judge Judy? Oprah? Or is it the Word of God and the teaching of His Church? In the eyes of many, the Word of God has become just another opinion in the market place. And who can say what God’s Word really is any way? I mean isn’t the Bible just the words of human beings? Why should Christianity think it’s got some sort of privileged access to God’s truth over any other religion? Sadly, more and more Catholics are adopting precisely this sort of unbelieving, cynical, agnostic point of view.
We live at a time when the Faith is nearly dead or at best on life-support in many places. Why else has Pope Benedict XVI called the Church to a Year of Faith? The Year of Faith is not some sort of exercise in papal cheerleading so that we can do a few more spiritual push-ups. The Year of Faith is a matter of life and death! Without faith, we wander in a desert of relativism. Without faith, we can’t know the ultimate meaning of our life. Without faith, we can’t shape our culture. Without faith, we live in darkness. Prophets call us to live in the light. Prophets call us to live by faith. Prophets call us to believe God’s Word. And prophets get put to death because people would rather live in darkness than accept the light God’s Word shines on their lives and pointing out where they need to change. Whether you realize it or not, everyone of us in this church is a prophet. During the ritual for baptism, one of the prayers tells us that baptism makes us sharers in Christ’s three-fold office of priest, prophet and king. So, if you’re baptized, then you’re a prophet! Now, like a true prophet, if you want to grasp what’s going on in the world today, then turn off the TV, turn off the computer, turn off the tablet, turn off the cell phone and turn on the Word of God. The first duty of a prophet is to be familiar with the Word of God.
How familiar are you with the Word of God? Let’s find out. Let’s do a quick experiment. I’m going to sing a line from a popular song and I want you to fill in the missing lyrics. 1) “Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a ….” 2) “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale….” Now, who can fill in the missing word in this Scripture passage: “Be sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to…..” How come we’re more familiar with songs by Frank Sinatra and TV sit-com theme songs like Gilligan’s Island than we are with the Word of God? If Mass has become a dull, boring, life-less, mechanical routine, well I have to tell you, the problem is not in the hour you spend in here at Sunday Mass. The problem is in the time that you don’t spend at home the rest of the week reading the Word of God. We’ve got plenty of time to watch TV, surf the web or read the latest novel but we don’t have anytime to read God’s Word in Scripture. And so we starve ourselves of God’s Word during the week and then come to Mass on Sunday and expect to make up the difference with a 20 minute Liturgy of the Word. That’s why so many are drowning in the cultural rot sweeping our land like a tsunami.
St. Jerome said “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” If we’re not feeding on a daily diet of God’s Word, there’s no way to stand like a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of brass against the assault of our culture. I’ve got nothing against the Super Bowl or against clever and funny advertisements. I’ll take it all in this evening with everyone else. But who will advertise the Word of God? Who will advertise the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ if not you? The best advertisement is a satisfied customer. A true prophet is satisfied with the Word of God. How about you?