Wednesday, June 12, 2013

JESUS THE WHOLE PERSON                                              
Homily for June 9, 2013

7 decades ago the psychologist Abraham Maslow described what he called a hierarchy of needs, struggling to explain why some of his patients suffered as they did or why some did not get well as he expected they would.

Maslow described the pattern that human motivations generally move through as
Physiological → Safety  → Belongingness and Love  → Esteem  → Self-Actualization
→ and, finally, Self-Transcendence.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs is often portrayed in the shape of a pyramid with the largest, most fundamental levels of needs at the bottom and the need for self-actualization at the top. The most fundamental and basic four layers of the pyramid contain what Maslow called "deficiency needs”:  esteem, friendship and love, security, and physical needs.  

Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher level needs. A person cannot be satisfied, and will always be searching for something, as long as more basic needs remain unsatisfied.

Catholic missionaries understood this in different language, as they learned that you can’t preach the Gospel to a person whose stomach is empty.  You have to feed the whole person.

Maslow’s theory was in large part replaced by an approach called “attachment theory.”

Attachment theory describes the dynamics of relationships between humans. Its most important tenet is that relationships form our perceptions of ourselves and our connections to the world around us, allowing to develop healthy self-esteem and positive social interactions. The sets of relationships we develop as we grow through life’s ages form what this theory calls a "secure base" for healthy self-esteem and growth.

Two millennia before these theories were articulated, Jesus of Nazareth seemed to understand well our need for satisfying basic needs and core relationships as a foundation for further growth and development.

If we watch how He acts in the Gospels we see this.

Two weeks ago we heard Jesus speak of the promised Holy Spirit who would teach us. Last week we heard of the miraculous feeding of 5,000 with only a few loaves and fish.  Today we encounter the gift to a widowed mother of her only son restored from the dead.

Jesus wants to fill us.  Every part of us.  He wants us to be fully satisfied.  Every part of us.  His ministry touches every part of the human person:
ü  The mind…     with parables + teaching
ü  The soul…       with mercy + compassion
ü  The heart…     with healing + companionship
ü  The body…     with food, earthly + heavenly

When He asked the crowd to sit down in last Sunday’s gospel, they did.  They admitted their hunger.  They waited to be fed.

When he asked the funeral procession to stop in today’s gospel, they did.  They admitted their grief and loneliness.  They waited to be consoled. 

One problem with our comfortable lifestyle in suburban North America is that we are out of touch with our needs. We don’t stop to admit them. There is something to fill every void: fast food, fast internet, fast cars, fast sex, fast relationships, fast excitement, fast games, a fast pace to life. If we fill our own needs with fast things and always cover our needs and emotions, we never admit our needs, we never seek relationships, we never seek…    well, we never seek God! 

We never seek a permanent fix to our basic needs and wants.  We never find a lasting relationship to form a solid platform for human growth and development.  We limp through life and pretend that everything is just fine.

The very first pages in the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, bring us in touch with human need, and a very basic, foundational human need at that. Adam was lonely.

God filled that need, but not in a fast and superficial fix: rather, in an extended relationship and conversation with Adam. God brought one gift after another to Adam,  God did not stop and smile until He first saw the smile on Adam’s face: “This one at last,” Adam said, “This one at last.”

When God told our first parents that they were to care for and cultivate the earth and all that is in it, did He meant plants and animals only?  What about to care for ourselves? What about to care for and cultivate each other? What about other people? Sadly, our modern culture teaches us to care as little for ourselves and for other people as to care for nature and the earth.  We exploit and neglect both.

Pope Francis has been spending much of his homilies and talks in the past few weeks on the topic of caring for the earth and caring for the poor. 

Listen to what he said last Wednesday to the people gathered in Saint Peter’s Square (it’s a long quote, but a good one):

[begin quote]

What does cultivating and caring for the earth mean? Are we truly cultivating and caring for creation? Or are we exploiting and neglecting it? The verb "to cultivate" reminds me of the care that the farmer has for his land so that it bear fruit, and it is shared: how much attention, passion and dedication!

Cultivating and caring for creation is God’s indication given to each one of us not only at the beginning of history; it is part of His project; it means nurturing the world with responsibility and transforming it into a garden, a habitable place for everyone. Benedict XVI recalled several times that this task entrusted to us by God the Creator requires us to grasp the rhythm and logic of creation. … We are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation; thus we are no longer able to read what Benedict XVI calls "the rhythm of the love story of God and man."

But to "cultivate and care" encompasses not only the relationship between us and the environment, between man and creation, it also regards human relationships. The Popes have spoken of human ecology, closely linked to environmental ecology.

We are living in a time of crisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind.  The human person is in danger: this is certain, the human person is in danger today, here is the urgency of human ecology! And it is a serious danger because the cause of the problem is not superficial but profound: it is not just a matter of economics, but of ethics and anthropology.

The Church has stressed this several times, and many say, yes, that's right, it's true ... but the system continues as before, because it is dominated by the dynamics of an economy and finance that lack ethics. Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the "culture of waste."
…Poverty, the needs, the dramas of so many people end up becoming the norm. If on a winter’s night, for example, a person dies in the cold, that is not news. If in so many parts of the world there are children who have nothing to eat, that's not news, it seems normal.

It cannot be this way! Yet these things become the norm: that some homeless people die of cold on the streets is not news. In contrast, a ten point drop on the stock markets of some cities is a crisis. A person dying is not news, but if the stock markets drop ten points it is a tragedy! Thus people are disposed of, as if they were trash.

This "culture of waste" tends to become the common mentality that infects everyone. Human life, the person, is no longer perceived as a primary value to be respected and protected, especially if poor or disabled, if not yet useful - such as the unborn child - or no longer needed - such as the elderly.

This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Once our grandparents were very careful not to throw away any leftover food.

Consumerism has led us to become used to an excess and daily waste of food, to which, at times, we are no longer able to give a just value, which goes well beyond mere economic parameters. We should all remember, however, that the food we throw away is as if stolen from the table of the poor, the hungry!

I encourage everyone to reflect on the problem of thrown away and wasted food to identify ways and means that, by seriously addressing this issue, are a vehicle of solidarity and sharing with the needy.

[end quote]

Pope Francis went on to point out what we heard just last Sunday in the Gospel message: the feeding of the crowds.  We were told that all ate their fill and were satisfied.  In God’s action all were satisfied.

In the gospel text we heard today a different human need is met.  Jesus saw the widow of Nain weeping over her only son, and saw that she was not satisfied, not filled with the awareness of God’s love and goodness.  She was hungry, and on a foundational basis. In the hierarchy of needs, she was hurt on a deep and basic level.  He healed her.  He filled her.  He restored her joy.

If you and I work so hard that we cover over our needs, if we fill our days and nights with pabulum, fast food and quick fixes – if we keep ourselves so busy and so distracted that we can never feel our hungers, taste our needs, call out to God in our emptiness – we will never know how God can satisfy us. Every part of us.  If we never notice the hungers – physical, spiritual, emotional – of other people near to us or half a world away, we will never know how God can satisfy us.  Every one of us.

A culture of waste allows us to toss away our own value, and that of others.  We devalue all things, including ourselves, rather than treasure and nurture all things and all relationships.  We think so little of our own needs that we toss them out alongside the other leftovers, seeing little worth in any of these things.  Or in anything at all.  Along with the other leftovers we toss away our wasted minutes and waster relationships.  The problem, though, is significant: if we cover over our own needs and wants – if we never admit the needs we have – if we never get in touch with the deepest desires of our heart – we will never know how God wants to satisfy us.  We will never “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

Moreover, if we fail to see the needs and hurts and pain of the people we pass by each day, if we are taking life so quickly and superficially that these other people don’t matter to us, and the moments of our conversations and encounters mean nothing as well, we cannot be the tools of God’s healing for them.

The pace of our life can be the biggest obstacle to experiencing God’s grace.

Ask yourself how you participate in the work of God to satisfy your needs and the needs of others.  How you cultivate and care for the earth, include those who inhabit it. In everything you throw away in the course of the day, are you throwing away the relationships we all cry out for along with the leftover food on your plate?  When you have become filled with a quick meal, do you think that another person might be hungry – if not for food, for companionship, for friendship?  Do you toss aside the leftover moments, leftover relationships, leftover compassion, together with all the refuse of a fast-paced life? Have you become so accustomed to a culture of waste that few things, if anything, remain important to you?

How can God fill your needs and satisfy you if you run past His outstretched arms so quickly in your life, never pausing to admit your needs and never waiting for Him to feed you?

Resolve today not just to think about changing your life.  Do it!  So many people rush into Mass and rush out of Mass as quickly as everything else we do all day, that the desire and power of God to transform your life and feed your hungers means nothing. So many people toss their dollars in the offering plate in a numb habit, never pausing to ask God how He wants to use you to feed the hungers of the human heart in His family, the Church. So many people receive the Body and Blood of Christ and immediately begin to think about leaving Mass, rather than letting the miraculous touch of Jesus bleed through your whole being.   The result: CHANGE NEVER HAPPENS.  And so many people wonder why.

Well, stop it!  Stop it.  God’s arms are waiting for you.  Don’t just think about it.  Make some change in your life. NOW. Stop for a few minutes every day. Get in touch with your hierarchy of needs and especially your need for the relationship God wants to have with you. Stop running past Him, and worse, stop running from Him. Fall into His loving arms, and be satisfied. Fully satisfied.

God has been waiting for you.

June 9, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

1 comment:

  1. I am so thankful that not all of your homilies result from your obvious spontaneous connection with the Holy Spirit; amazing though they are. This one deserved to be printed and posted, as many of us deserved to hear and reread it!