Sermons

Sept. 2: Twenty-Second Sunday

“Every good and generous action and every perfect gift come from above, from the Father who created the lights of heaven.” James 1:17-18.

Recently, there is an Allstate television commercial which has the title, “Grounded.” It’s a 30-second family drama about “accident forgiveness.”

A smooth-talking young teen appears at the door of his parent’s bedroom to announce:

“Mom, Dad, Hi! I had a very minor fender-bender tonight — in a very unreasonably narrow fast-food driving lane.

But what a powerful life lesson!

And don’t worry. I have everything handled. I’ve already spoken with our Allstate agent, and I know we have ‘accident forgiveness.’

Which is so smart on your guy’s part! The fact they will forgive you.”

From across the bed, the mom passes her judgment: “Four weeks without the car!”

As the teen quickly exits, he replies: “Ok, yup. And Goodnight!”

The young actor’s “fake sincerity,” rings true.

Ever once in a while, we like to mask over a tough situation – this form of persuasion may be called “impression management.”

For Jesus in today’s gospel passage, when it comes to serving God, while impressions count, what’s going on within us – the sincere intentions of our hearts and souls are paramount.

In this particular gospel episode, the Pharisees and scribes question Jesus about the disciples that are not following strict Jewish tradition and they observe the disciples eating with unclean hands.

Jesus replies that people honor God with their lips, but deep down in their hearts and souls, they are very far from him.

Jesus sees an example of “impression management,” whereby people should practice religion with a more profound spiritual or genuine religious conversion.

Our second reading from the Letter of Saint James coming almost at the conclusion of the New Testament is a manual for Christian conduct. The apostle James writes: “Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.” 

Much in the same way, on Wednesday of last week, as students you signed a pledge, in which you are ensuring a commitment to appropriate student behavior and high academic integrity and honor in this our Santa Catalina community.

A final point:

Year ago, when I was the ill-cast Director Communication/Public Relations of my home archdiocese, there were some good news days, but mostly I recall those terrible news days.

At that time, the person that I reported to, the Vicar General & Chancellor read the morning newspaper headlines, and if he did not like news accounts about the archdiocese (which was more often the case) he would chew me out, and say: “Mike…you have to make us look good!”

As if I had control over the newspaper reporters, editors or TV correspondents, this priest wanted “impression management” to hide our often self-inflicted, public relations conflicts or issues.

Years later, when I found myself teaching public relations on the college level, on the very first day of class, I would admit to my students that I was a “PR flunky;” never having mastered the art & craft of what some may call deception or hypocrisy.

Given the recent headlines about the Church, its bishops, and the on-going sex abuse crisis, I have developed two public relations rules drawn from the Letter of Saint James and his code of Christian conduct.

First, do good to look go!

And secondly, be forewarned — if you do bad, you will look bad!

So to quote Saint James, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA

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