Sunday, February 03, 2008

The ‘Beatitudes of the Super Bowl Commercials’ and the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ

Terry Tate, Office Linebacker

(Fourth Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on February 3, 2008 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Matthew 5: 1-12.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Fourth Sunday of the Year 2008]

You just heard the Beatitudes according to Jesus Christ.

A little later today you’ll hear another version of these sayings—believe it or not—courtesy of the wonderful people who bring you the commercials at the Super Bowl!

Did you realize that?

Now to be sure, the men and women who advertise during the Super Bowl every year don’t express their beatitudes in the same way that Jesus did here in Matthew 5, in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was clear and direct and right to the point in these 12 verses of Sacred Scripture; they, for the most part, are much more subtle in how they share their messages with us and with the world.

That’s what makes them good advertisers. It’s what makes them effective in what they do!

Both sets of beatitudes, of course—the Beatitudes of Jesus and what I would call “the beatitudes of the Super Bowl commercials”—represent philosophies of life (very different philosophies of life!). Both sets of beatitudes say to us, “Do these things, and you will have lasting happiness; do these things and you will fulfill your true potential as human beings; do these things and your relationship with God will be what it should be; do these things and your relationships with other people will be what they should be.”

Let me now illustrate the difference between these 2 sets of beatitudes by giving you a few concrete examples:

As we heard a few moments ago, Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”; in other words, “Blessed are those who know they need God, and who put him first in their lives” (that’s basically what it means to be poor in spirit).

The Super Bowl advertisers, by contrast, say, “Blessed are those who get rich—fast—by making good deals online with E*Trade, or by making good investments with Charles Schwab or TD Waterhouse or some other big investment firm!”

Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Blessed are those who mourn” (which includes mourning for your own sins—because if you mourn for your sins, you’ll probably repent of them and receive forgiveness—and that’s a great thing!).

The Super Bowl advertisers, on the other hand, say, “Blessed are those who forget about their sins and party a lot and have a really good time, preferably with an ice cold Bud Light in their hands.”

Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the merciful.”

The Super Bowl advertisers say, “Blessed are the tough guys who can push other people around—like Terry Tate, office linebacker!” (Remember him?)

Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”

The Super Bowl advertisers say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for all that this world has to offer! Blessed are those grab for all the gusto they can get!—who feed their earthly appetites to excess, with Doritos and Big Macs and other high fat foods!”

One final example: Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the clean of heart.”

The Super Bowl advertisers say, “Blessed are those—like Jessica Simpson, and the models of Victoria’s Secret, and the people at!—who use sex to manipulate others. Blessed are those who treat their bodies (and the bodies of other human beings) like objects.”

Two very different sets of beatitudes; two very different philosophies of life.

When I was preparing for this homily the other day, I came across an on-line article that was entitled, “Super Bowl Ads are a Sign of the Times.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself!

Keep that thought in mind when you watch the Super Bowl later on tonight. Super Bowl commercials are a very clear sign of the times we’re living in; they’re a sign of the materialism, and the selfishness, and the greed, and the hedonism that are so rampant right now in our culture!

Now you know why so many people these days are so unhappy! On an unconscious level at least, they’ve believed the message of these commercials! And that really shouldn’t surprise us, because this is the same message they and all of us are bombarded with every day in pop songs and on television and in movies and in newspapers and in popular magazines!

In fact, the sad reality is that we’ve all been negatively influenced to some extent by these lies of the world! We’ve been unconsciously formed (or should I say “deformed”?) by these false, poisonous ideas.

And so the true Beatitudes—the Beatitudes of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior—can sound outlandish to us at times! For example, I’m sure that many Catholics all over the world will hear this Gospel reading proclaimed today at Sunday Mass, and they’ll say to themselves, “Jesus, what are you talking about? Those Beatitudes make no sense to me! Blessed are the poor in spirit? Blessed are those who mourn? Blessed are the merciful? Blessed are the peacemakers? Blessed are those who try to be holy? Lord Jesus, why in heaven’s name would I want to be any of those things? It sounds to me like a prescription for depression and misery, not a formula for lasting happiness!”

This is why we need to pray every day! This is why we need to read the Bible every day!

Do you? Do you have a regular prayer time, and do you read at least one passage of Sacred Scripture every day?

Remember, the world is programming us all the time to believe these “Super Bowl beatitudes”. It doesn’t just happen on Super Bowl Sunday! The only way to get “unprogrammed”—or “reprogrammed to the truth”—is with God’s help: the kind of help that comes through prayer; the kind of help that comes when we read the Sacred Scriptures and fill our minds with God’s revealed truth.

It’s a constant battle, yes, but it’s a battle worth fighting! Because the reward for believing and for living the real Beatitudes is happiness: relative happiness here on earth, and eternal happiness someday in heaven.

And that last one is a far, far bigger prize than all the Super Bowls of history—put together.