September 29, 2013 – Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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I like a “feel good” Jesus; I don’t enjoy being challenged to open my eyes and heart past my comfort levels.  Today all three readings are coming right after me.

As I look over this weekend’s readings, I am struck by the word “complacent” (in the first reading, which is also a theme in the Gospel) and the word “compete” in the second reading.

Both of these words bring me back to a wonderful story about Tedy Bruschi, former New England Patriot football player and now ESPN analyst.  Bruschi walked into his locker room on the first day of training camp the year after the Patriots won their first Super Bowl and began passing out tee shirts to his teammates that said,“Complacency Stinks.  Stay Focused.”

(He used another word instead of “stinks”).  He was challenging them NOT to be lazy or to settle.  He wanted his team to remain committed to the hard work it takes to be a champion.

Complacent comes from the Latin words “pleased with”.  The word basically means to be too pleased with ourselves and our accomplishments.  We begin to think “we’ve made it, we’ve arrived. We should be proud of ourselves.  We can take it easy now.”

The prophet Amos blasts those of us who get so focused on ourselves that we ignore and neglect the suffering and needy among us.

I am so guilty of “navel gazing”; that is, focusing on my needs and issues that I can be blind to suffering and needs all around me. Jesus explains what a danger this is in the story of Lazarus that we hear in this weekend’s Gospel.  It is as if Jesus is saying, “Self-congratulatory praise stinks.  Stay focused.  Be My hands and feet.  Show compassion to My suffering presence where you see it.  Without that care, all your prayers, retreats, honors, etc. mean little.”   It’s a challenging, tough message that makes me uncomfortable.

Which brings me to the second reading and St. Paul’s words to Timothy, “Compete well for the faith.”  “Compete” also has comes from Latin – basically meaning to seek or to strive.  Paul echoes what Jesus and the Old Testament prophet Amos were saying – we who follow God must always strive to see and serve God, especially in the suffering we find in ordinary life right in front of us.

I think Jesus might pass out shirts too:
“Complacency Stinks.  Stay Focused.”

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