Has this ever happened to you? You are glued to the TV set watching your favorite basketball team in the playoffs. The score is tied. There is one minute left to play. Your team has the ball. You are sitting at the edge of your seat to see what is going to happen next. And then…there is a commercial break. Ugh! What a let-down. It is not only the interruption in the action that you resent, but it is also the message. Commercials may be about beer, or cars, or computers. But the underlying message that comes across time after time is "the big lie." Commercials tell us that "to be happy you have to buy lots of stuff." Some people actually believe this lie, so they go out and buy lots of stuff. They don’t feel any happier, so they go out and buy more stuff. Still, no happiness. These people scurry about, looking for life in all the wrong places. Buying stuff just doesn’t work.
In our first reading today St. Paul advises us to put on armor–the armor of God– to protect ourselves. He is not talking about protecting ourselves from assaults by enemy soldiers, but assaults by the forces of evil. And one of these forces is the big lie of advertising. We need to shield our ears and the ears of our children. We need to guard our minds and the minds of our children. No, we don’t need lots of stuff to be happy. For true happiness we need the Lord Jesus at the center of our lives. Wisely Paul tells us "pray at every opportunity in the Spirit." This will help us know what is really important in life. Then Paul asks for prayers the he may "make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel." We ask for the same strength to be girded in truth and advertise by our lives that Jesus is the only source of lasting joy.
Fr. Alan Phillip, C.P. is a member of the Passionist Community at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.