Have you ever really watched the commercials on television? The commercial break is normally your chance to grab some food, go to the bathroom, change the channel, zone out, or (now-a-days) hit the fast forward button. However, despite all of these options, the other day I found myself fascinated by a series of three commercials. This was because they touched at the heart of a central theme of Saint Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and our readings today: the desire to be seen.
The first commercial was for a prescription drug in which users of the drug were freed to be their true selves. If I suffered from the condition in question and took the drug, the commercial implied that I too could do a cannonball into a pool, take a nap in a hammock, and blow the petals off a flower towards my true love, all in dramatic slow-motion. The second commercial was for a drug store. Two elderly ladies awkwardly stand at the check-out counter buying ample amounts of sunscreen, wearing apparently nothing but towels. We then see them at the beach, applying said-sunscreen, before they drop their towels and venture onto the sand. A strategically placed sign informs us that this is a nude beach, and we see our heroines joyfully waving their hands in the air as they run off into the sun. We are told to seize the day and, by implication, seize the bodily freedom that we could purchase at this particular store. A final commercial for another prescription drug showed a series of people looking directly into the camera. Each asks the viewer to “see me,” instead of seeing a victim of a particular illness.
My intention here is not to criticize or mock these commercials; on the contrary, I think they tap into a deep longing of the human heart. In short, we want to be seen…not as an object of lust, not as a hunk of meat, not as an illness, but as we truly are. “See me,” as that final commercial pleaded, see me as a person endowed with dignity, see me as created in the image and likeness of God. As Saint John Paul II explains, this was how Adam and Eve saw each other before the Fall: “Seeing each other reciprocally, through the very mystery of creation, as it were, the man and the woman see each other more fully and clearly than through the sense of sight itself…They see and know each other, in fact, with all the peace of the interior gaze, which creates precisely the fullness of intimacy of persons” (TOB 13:1). Adam and Eve did not see each other as an object to be taken solely for pleasure but as a gift to be received in love. In that “relationship of reciprocal gift,” as John Paul II called it, they truly saw each other (TOB 14:2).
However, thanks to their fall from grace, Adam and Eve lost that vision of each other. Lust blinded them from the “gift,” and they desired to use rather than love each other. The darkness of sin entered the scene, and this blindness to the “gift” had a trickle-down effect for all of humanity. We all know the pain of being used rather than loved. Perhaps it was an unhealthy relationship, your own sexual sin, a family member who rejected you, or a friend who betrayed you. The pain of these wounds reminds us of our desire for true love and for others to see us as we really are. This what makes those commercials so effective; they tap into our aversion from rejection and our desire for affirmation, they long for what Adam and Eve had “in the beginning” before the fall.
But a drug store cannot reverse the effects of the fall, only Jesus can. Jesus knows what it’s like to be rejected, to be falsely seen. He was the incarnate Son of God, but they labeled him as a blasphemer, tortured him, and crucified him. His accusers did not see the Savior but a rabble-rouser, a revolutionary, and a criminal. However, through his death and resurrection, Jesus flipped the script. It’s as if Jesus told us from the cross, “Let me show you who I really am, let me show you what true love looks like, let me bear the pain of rejection and your sin…see me and I will help you see again.” Through his selfless love, Jesus illuminated the darkness of sin and death which we had grown all too accustomed to.
Our readings today invite us to do the same through our own acts of selfless love. God tells Isaiah, “share your bread…shelter the oppressed…clothe the naked…then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” Psalm 112 proclaims that he who is just will be “a light in darkness to the upright.” The Alleluia verse states that whoever follows Jesus “will have the light of life.” Finally, Jesus says in Matthew, “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father.” We have encountered the darkness of sin and of being unseen. Yes, at times we have been guilty of not looking at others as we should. But in Jesus and through his example, we know the way back to the light, the way back to glory. It is the way of selfless love, of looking at others as God sees them, of asking Jesus to help us see ourselves and others anew.
If we continue the journey of following the Lord and trying to love like him, we truly can be the “light of the world.” The more we become like Jesus, the more Christ’s love will shine through our hearts, and the more others will see us as we truly are, beloved sons and daughters of the Father.
To Download a PDF Version of this Homily, Click Here: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
Fr. Craig Borchard was ordained for the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 2016. He is a former intern and student of TOBI, and is currently the Associate Pastor of St. Michael Catholic Church in Plymouth, Indiana.