Television is the very definition of a mixed blessing. It is
capable of sending vital information around the globe in an instant;
yet, often it spreads only gossip, triviality, and rumor. It can
bring us to fascinating, far-off places we will never be able
to visit; yet, often it only takes us to neighborhoods we recognize
all too well, where no one says anything different or intelligent
or uplifting. Through it, we hear the Pope preach the good news
in our nation’s capital, we watch the Olympic torch move
across the globe, we see creatures swim on the bottom of the sea
and galaxies glow at the far reaches of the cosmos; yet, we also
confront waves of vulgarity and stupidity in the form of coarse
comedies, vapid dramas, and so-called “reality shows.”
Indeed, in most homes with children, you can easily see both sides
of this mixed blessing. On the one hand, the television has a
place of honor, surrounded by chairs and couches all pointed in
its direction. On the other hand, it is programmed with an access
code, so that parents can exercise some control over what their
children are exposed to. This is why, when I babysit my nieces
and nephew, we watch seemingly endless episodes of Hannah Montana
and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody; but when they fall asleep,
I can’t watch The French Connection or Alien because the
movie channels are blocked and I can never remember the code.
I don’t blame my sister and her husband. A parent would
have to be crazy to allow children unrestricted access to a television.
Because children’s minds are vacuum cleaners, sucking up
everything they see and hear, and often without understanding
it. And children imitate what they see and hear - sometimes for
better, sometimes for worse. My nieces try to sing and dance like
Miley Cyrus, and my nephew talks like Homer Simpson. That’s
why when I was their age, my mother banned the show Batman. My
brothers and I would try to imitate the fights the saw, shouting
“Pow!” and “Zap!” and punching one other,
clobbering each other over the head leaping off stairs and tables.
Not being stunt men, we were soon a mass of wounded, weeping boys.
But there we were the next day, at the same Bat Time and the same
Bat Channel, ready to do it all again.
Good parents want their children to have good examples, because
children imitate what they see and hear. God wants us to have
a good example, so that we can imitate what we see and hear. And
So He sent His Son to shine forth in a sinful world. The television
that gives children so many bad words and attitudes to imitate
does the same for adults. There we see selfishness celebrated,
excess extolled, and gossip glamorized. Television, and the movies,
and books, and our neighborhoods and workplaces, and perhaps even
our homes, provide us with plenty of bad examples. So God sends
His Son for us to see, to hear, to imitate.
We already know a lot about how to imitate Jesus Christ. Week
after month after year, we hear him speak, we listen to his stories,
we watch him call disciples and meet sinners, Samaritans, Pharisees
and Gentiles. We see Jesus in action, and so we know what to do:
feed the hungry, visit the sick, console the grief-stricken, work
for peace, teach the truth, receive each day and every breath
as a gift, live chastely, forgive, pray constantly. Every time
we do these things, we look and sound like Christ.
Today, the Holy Spirit speaks to us about another way to look
and sound like Christ: suffering. In the pain we endure, and how
we endure it, we can imitate Jesus Christ. Saint Peter tells us
that people suffer for being criminals, sinners, and busybodies,
but this is not the suffering of a disciple. In today’s
second reading, we hear these words: “If you are insulted
for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory
and of God rests upon you.... But whoever is made to suffer as
a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the
What a remarkable claim: suffering for Christ gives God glory.
There are Christians in the world who still suffer as the first
disciples did: they are persecuted, imprisoned, and killed. All
of us owe them our gratitude and prayers for their glorious imitation
of Christ. But every follower of Christ must expect insults and
pain. And so every disciple can give God glory.
When we put aside our schedules to visit the sick, cut back on
our spending to aid the poor, give support to the addicted, the
widowed, and the stranger, we carry the cross of service. This
gives God glory.
When we defend the lives of the unborn, insist that marriage can
exist only between a man and a woman, proclaim that the riches
of the earth must be shared with the most needy, we carry the
cross of truth. This gives God glory.
When we put away anger at a husband or wife, refuse to seek sexual
pleasure in sinful ways, and do not succumb to the desire for
revenge, we carry the cross of self-denial. And this gives glory
to God, a glory that surpasses Mount Sinai (II Cor 3), a glory
brighter than the noonday sun. For when we suffer we share in
the glory of Jesus Christ.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus associates his suffering with glory:
“Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that
your son may glorify you...” Christ recognizes that his
suffering and death will give his Father glory. God Himself, beyond
all pain and hardship, accepted suffering for the sake of our
salvation. This is glory. When we share in his Cross, when we
feel the pressure, the strain, the pinch, the bite, the blow,
the curse of living as a Christian in a sinful world, we are blessed.
For to be like God, to accept suffering for the sake of goodness,
is always a glorious thing.
We saw the glory of God shining among us, in the form of Jesus
Christ: in his miracles and parables, in his nail marks and his
crown, in his Resurrection and Ascension. And whenever we suffer
for the sake of the Gospel, we receive a pure blessing from the
Lord, who lets Christ shine forth again in us, for men and women
to see, to hear, and to imitate.