Excessive pageantry and ritual are before us NFL fans as we now officially begin Superbowl week. As the entire professional football season culminates toward the Super Bowl game, this week is filled with extravagance and excess in every area. Coverage of it is non-stop. Pomp and pageantry I think are part of human nature. We hear the same excitement in the first reading when the Ark of the LORD is brought into the newly constructed temple. The author names all the significant people who are there including, the elders, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, the priests, the princes of the ancestral houses, and all the people of Israel. As one reads this you can feel the excitement building. And this reading concludes with the presence of the Lord filling the temple there in the dark cloud.
The Gospel picks up on this understanding of the presence of the Lord. In today’s gospel we hear that when Jesus and his disciples get out of the boat in Gennesaret, the crowds recognized him. Before they scurried off to bring him the sick, they first recognized him.
Why is it so hard to recognize Christ in our midst today? Why do we so frequently turn our backs on the Holy One, neglecting and ignoring the sacred? We might make excuses that we are busy people or the issues are political ones, or they are too overwhelming. Why is it that we sometimes put a price tag on the value of human life? For many, even the sacraments of the Church, where Christ promised to be present in these sacraments, have become routine. For others, they are simply not valued. Have we as a society become blind to the real presence of Christ in our world?
The simple recognition of Christ is a tremendous gift to society. We see this stated by Mark in today’s Gospel. Mark tells us that those who after recognizing him, brought the sick to Jesus on mats and they were healed. Jesus changed the citizens of Gennesaret on that day. It started with a group who recognized him. How would that day have unfolded if they didn’t recognize him? When we neglect the ability to recognize Christ, we prioritize our own needs and desires and are more prone to selfishness, apathy and a lack of concern for others.
We can get pretty charged up over an event like a Superbowl to which the media will bring excessive hype, placing it right in front of us. It is harder and even takes spiritual discipline to see the presence of Christ in the sacraments, in the marginalized, and in those who are suffering. This has been the beauty for me of the Charism of the Passionists. Good teachers and mentors have always challenged me to be attentive to the presence of Christ, especially in the midst of human suffering. I know some days I am better at this than others. And on the days when I am less blind, it changes the way that I pray.
Fr. David Colhour, CP, is the Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province. He resides in Chicago, Illinois.