Homily for Super Bowl Sunday
Web Version ( extended)
Who will be the dominant team in the NFL Super Bowl and win it all? Will it be the seriously strong Seattle Seahawks or will it be the pulverizing, powerful Patriots of New England? Surely, the game will be a match of aggression, force and power that will certainly have some injuries and hurts on the field of action, and millions will be watching the game. Of the pre-game hype, announcers and fans are using phrases like “will our offensive line annhilate our opponent and our running back smash through their defense?” Or, “Will our teams all-out blitz knock out their quarterback?” You know–it’s your normal well wishes about your team “imposing its will” on the other team! And much of America will watch the spectacle to see just who will dominate who.
Yes–the interesting catchphrase used for Super Bowl 2015′s player comments was that “we’ll impose our will on them.” Domination –power— control— winning: That’s the name of the game, and it is much they way of sinners in our world, too; and when it isn’t just a football game, but it is real life–we have trouble.
We do live in an aggressive culture, and it is no surprise that we amuse ourselves sometimes with violent and aggressive entertainment. Yet, as Christians, we also need to step aside and see things, in regard to power, from another perspective. We don’t live to be so aggressive as to take all we can get, nor do we impose our will on anyone. We look to our Lord for lessons in this regard…
The Gospel today offers a different perspective on power. Jesus had it. Jesus used it. Did he do so for domination? No. With the gospel passages of Mark 1 today, we hear about a demonstration of power by Jesus, as done early on in His ministry.
Jesus shows He has power and authority. He is challenged by evil spirits, which have taken possession of someone, and they ‘speak’ through their victim. Indeed He does use His power in response. The onlookers are surprised at His power, saying: “He even can make demons or evil spirits submit to Him and be chased/banished away!”
In Mark’s account of Jesus’ life, this is the start of the revelation of Who Jesus Is. He is the Son of Glory; Jesus has The Power of God. Yet, as Mark shows how Jesus uses power, in working with His humble coming and service to humankind, it is quite the revelation of God that His coming among us was not one of intimidation, brute force, punishing effects, domination, or imposing the Divine will.
While Jesus wielded power here (in today’s gospel account), He used it to bring the darkness into submission, as the angelic world had already had their time of choice and taking sides, for or against God. The dark forces stand down and their human captor is blessedly freed of them. Mark’s Gospel is introducing the SaviorJesus will stand down sin and death for us, too, our worse enemies of broken fallen-ness. Yet Jesus’ power, which is the ultimate Power of God, does not come in domineering fashion. Humanity will have her free will and choice honored.
In a startling lesson, God comes into our world as one of us, and in Jesus of Nazareth does come offering an invitation to freedom, and He gives living examples of love and its favor for us to see, and from there He gives us the choice for following Him into the “life abundant” or to remain in the world’s system and its ongoing misery and unfairness and its dead end game.
Jesus doesn’t force it, but He invites us to join in Him and to glorify God almighty through Him, as the God/man. This approach seems quite opposite the way of our dominant world today. We live within an aggressive culture, with many seeking to control, manipulate, or force or dominate to their own gain for the higher and secured place of pleasure over the weaker masses. It can get pretty ugly too.
As fun as the Super Bowl show and game can be, it seems to also raise the ugly mirror of our society’s craving for excess and also for some hitting and forcing, gladiator-style, of determining who gets to be a winner. In this, the Super Bowl game acts as a mirror of our run-it-over-you culture. Good thing, though, it’s only just a game!
The Super Bowl telecast is famous for its funny commercial breaks from the action. Let’s do it, then, here in this homily. As we take our ‘break,’ I was thinking of what the Super Bowl might look like from an outside point of view… If creatures from a distant planet did send a first probe or secret ship on this Super Bowl Sunday to observe what life is like here, and if they had happened to visit the Glendale area of Phoenix, per chance, I bet that they would come back with this conclusion: The people on this planet have a strange religion where they worship a brown sphere!! (That what we earthlings all call a football!)
In the alien’s report back to the home planet, their communication would be thus: The great god of this planet’s inhabitants seems to be some laced, leathery-brown-skin thing. This brown thing is shared communally by some men on a green field, among twenty-two men robed in various religious attire and helmets, along with a few other men in striped clothing, who may be their priests(?), and all the men on the said field run around in worship of the brown object, looking to hold it and embrace it, even for just a few seconds. It is quite something to see. About 75,000 other spectator creatures surround them in a round arena, and they are screaming and shouting at the action, all in watching the rites below, and seemingly praying down towards the green field at the brown sphere in quite a great hype.
These “earthling” worshippers up in the arena don their various types of religious clothing, with half of them wearing one color and the other half wearing other colors. There also are libations in all their hand-extensions, along with strange foods in their possession for the rites, and each food offering is consumed heavily in this Worship Event. Bands play, decorative flags and signs are waved, and chants are sung in worship to the brown object. When the brown object goes to one end of the green field or the other, there seems to be special worship moment of their god, and they all hail the brown ball and some of the striped-clothing priests put their arms straight up to the heavens. Some fireworks go off and streamers fly, and people then consume some more libations and foods up in the arena. The worship event goes on for about three hours–the worshippers have a lot of devotion to offer. At the end, even a few of the onlookers do pass out in ecstacy–as we observed.
(Their home planet receives the info with fascination–asking for more details–so the report continues…)
This worship of theirs seems to be the culmination of various other so-called Sundays and some other special holidays/holy days(?) leading up to this Main Holiday to their god. All across this land, the live worshippers are joined by viewers and participants in some communication device they call “tv.” Thus, millions of others join in from their home dwellings with the worship of this god, and especially on this Super Sunday, all in honor to the brown object, which they call the “Foot Ball.” They even guard the brown objects before the rites begin, as a deflation of any one such object in the rite is forbidden or frowned upon, so much does the rite revere the mighty “football.” End of report.
Heh. Heh. :). I hope you liked my fun outside and alien view of football as being mistaken for a god. Or IS IT a god to some?! Let’s get back from our comical ‘commercial’ and onto the homily finish…
Getting to the example of Jesus, as in the eyes of one evangelist Mark: God’s Son is The Ultimate Power, He is Eternal and Divine, but in Jesus, intwrestingly, what we first associate Him with is things like Love, Mercy, and Freedom. Why? Because He is not the God of Force, but of free gathering and invitation. Jesus says: Follow Me. He is for unity, or community, and He is for justice and peace. He contradicts the world. The culture, that turns versus Him, is plagued then in division, unrest, and the survival of the strongest or cleverest. Jesus’ enemies think that all must be taken and served to self-gain. He, rather, stands for a whole Other approach. We’ll be studying Mark’s gospel all year to get re-oriented to Jesus’ Way. His is the surprising way of invitation to grace and not to force us to His side.
End of Homily
For further Super Bowl reflections… See the next blog.
There will be found added comments, mostly coming from a Catholic commentary I read this week about The Super Bowl and American Culture and its interplay in religion. I interspersed my thoughts into the commenter’ s words. ###