13 August 2012

Do You Smell Good?

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
            A couple of weeks ago I went out to lunch with a guy named Joe.  Joe graduated from Lansing Catholic this past May, and was getting ready to move down to Ave Maria College in Florida, where he will play football, and he wanted to catch-up a little before he left.  While Joe and I were eating lunch, the waitress, a 45-50 year old women came over and said, “I just have to say, one of you smells really good.”  There we were, left with the option of a woman liking the smell of either a young priest (dressed in clerics, mind you), or an 18-year-old. 
            A few days later, playing volleyball with some friends on a Thursday evening, my teammate tells me as he’s about to serve, “Father, you smell really good!  What type of cologne do you wear?” 
            We each have our own smells.  Some are highlighted (or hidden) by deodorants and/or cologne or perfume.  But our “scent,” if you will, helps to communicate who we are.  St. Paul, in our second reading, tells us to “be imitators of God…as Christ loved us and handed himself over…as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.”  So if we are to be like Jesus, we must smell like Jesus, not in the sense of our musk, but in the way we live.
            When a person is baptized and later confirmed, Sacred Chrism is put on his or her head.  The Chrism is a mixture of olive oil and a special perfume.  Parents of baptized babies notice the smell of the Chrism.  Those who are confirmed certainly notice the smell, especially since most of those who are confirmed around here are in adolescence and are very concerned with how they smell.  But Sacred Chrism smells for a reason.  It reminds us that we are to have a special smell, the aroma of Christ, the odor of holiness.
            How do we smell differently?  How do we have the odor of holiness?  There are a lot of ways, but based upon our first reading and our Gospel, I want to suggest one very practical way: the way we treat Sundays.
Sunday is a Christian’s day, because it is the day that Jesus rose from the dead.  That’s why we set it aside every week for worship.  It is the new Sabbath, fulfilling the rest that God commanded we take in the Ten Commandments.  It is a day to be given over to the worship of God, charitable works, family and friends, and relaxation.  And it used to set us Catholics apart, just as Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, set Jews apart.  But we have fallen away from the sacredness of the Lord’s Day.
Why do we need the Lord’s Day?  Frankly, we need the rest.  I’m sure I could ask any one of you how the past week went, and you would have myriad events that took place that, whether simply required or even recreational, drained your batteries.  We need rest, just like Elijah, working for God, needed rest.  In fact, he was running away from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who were going to kill him, because he had demonstrated the power of the true God, and put to death the false-prophets of Baal.  But, Sunday is not just about sleeping all day.  Even Elijah is told to take bread, because He will need it for the journey to the mountain of God.
Sunday is also about worship, and for us as Catholics, that worship means the Mass.  We are not fulfilling the Sabbath Commandment if we just sleep all day and vaguely think about God.  We need to come to Mass because it is only in the Mass that the Bread of Angels, the Eucharist, is given to us.  We come to Mass because it is there, in a special way, that we are taught by God through His Word, read to us to strengthen us to live out our baptismal call to holiness.  Jesus promises us that, if we are not conscious of grave sin, which makes us unworthy to receive His Body and Blood, than we will live forever, because the bread that He gives is his “flesh for the life of the world.”  The Eucharist is precisely what we need to have strength to do those million things that naturally arise in life between Monday and Saturday, from work, from family, from sports, etc. 
Now, there are lots of people, even Catholics, who do not go to Mass on Sunday, who do not receive the Eucharist, and we may think that they’re doing just fine.  But “just fine” is only a shadow of the “great” that God wants for them, if they would only come to Mass to worship and receive, in a state of grace, the Eucharist.  Without the Body and Blood of Christ that we receive at Mass, we are only a shadow of who we can truly be in Christ.
For the rest of the day, as a way of having the aroma of Christ, let’s say no to almost everything else.  That will be hard, without a doubt.  And some of us have to work, especially in emergency response jobs or the service industry like in restaurants or gas stations.  But, many of us can say no to anything which is not truly relaxing and God-focused.  Many of us can say no to sports practices and menial work which can be done on other days.  If we pledge to each other that we will say no to lesser things, which allows us to say yes to God, family & friends, assisting the poor, and relaxation for one day per week, then our families will be able to worship God and find strength in the Eucharist, and will be able to enjoy each other’s company and strengthen their familial bonds, and we’ll have the strength and energy we need to do the work that lies ahead of us from Monday through Saturday: at work, at school, on the field, in the gym, and around the house.  And in this one way, we will have the aroma of Christ, the odor of holiness, so that we will smell good, not for a waitress or a friend, but for God.