Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Satanic Nature of Cynicism

Roger Staubach: Then (top) and now.

(Sixth Sunday of the Year (B): This homily was given on February 15, 2015 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Sixth Sunday 2015]

Satan is a cynic.

And one of his greatest desires is to make us as cynical as he is.

A cynic is somebody who believes that the only motive for human conduct is self-interest.  So for the cynic, there’s no such thing as selfless, sacrificial love—and there’s certainly no such thing as holiness!  Even if people appear to be selfless, and self-sacrificial, and holy—it’s all an illusion!  According to the cynic, such people act in virtuous ways exclusively for their own benefit; they act in virtuous ways only because of what’s in it for them.

The reasons that Satan wants us all to be cynics should be obvious.  First of all, Satan knows quite well that if we become cynical people we will not pursue holiness in our own lives.  (Why would we pursue something that we don’t believe exists?)  And Satan knows that if we take on a cynical attitude we won’t believe that holiness is possible for anybody else.

All that having been said, it should also be obvious that a true cynic would scoff at what St. Paul says in today’s second reading.  There, as we heard a few moments ago, he tells the Corinthians, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Paul was so confident in the fact that he was living the Gospel as it was supposed to be lived, that he could say to the Corinthian people, “Look, if you want to know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ; if you want to know what it means to live in faith, hope and charity; if you want to know what it means to serve the Lord—just follow me around for a while!  Just imitate me.  Do what I do; treat other people like I treat them; follow my example of prayer and love and sacrifice—and you’ll be following Jesus yourselves.”
St. Paul was no cynic.  He knew that holiness was possible.  He knew it was possible for him, and he knew it was possible for every other human person—regardless of what that person’s past had been like!  That’s because Paul was keenly aware of how much he had changed in his own life!  As he said in his first letter to Timothy, “I was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, a man filled with arrogance …”

That’s important for us to remember as we begin Lent this week.  Lent is an opportunity for change—positive change—and change IS possible!

Despite what the cynics of this world tell us.

And speaking of cynics, have you heard about the new movie that’s out this week—“Fifty Shades of Grey”?  Unless you’ve been on Mars for the last several months I’m sure you have—many times!  This is a film that glorifies just about every kind of deviant sexual behavior (in fact, it’s so raunchy that many secular critics have referred to it as “mommy porn”).  Dr. Drew Pinsky—who is considered to be a “relationship expert” and who is definitely not a conservative traditionalist—has gone so far as to say that the movie is yet another example of “violence against women.” 

And yet, it’s being promoted by many people like it’s the greatest film since “Gone with the Wind.”

Make no mistake about it, my brothers and sisters, the makers of this movie are cynics.  The promoters of the film—especially those in the mainstream media—are also cynics.

In fact, I’m sure many of them would say, “Dr. Drew—Fr. Ray—what’s the big deal?  Don’t you guys know that everybody does stuff like this?  This is the real world, man.  Get with it!”

That’s not true, of course.  It’s not true that everyone does such immoral things.

But if you’re a cynic you think it is!

Because to a cynic real goodness, and real virtue, and real holiness are not possible.

Needless to say, I do NOT recommend that you either see this movie or read the book upon which it’s based!

That’s because I don’t recommend that people support pornography in any form.

If you want to spend an hour of your time doing something much more productive and inspiring, then tune in to the NFL Network and try to catch the next rebroadcast of the documentary they recently did on Roger Staubach.  It’s part of that series called, “A Football Life.”

I saw it a couple of weeks ago.

For the non-football fans among us, Roger Staubach is a former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and a two time Super Bowl champion.  He retired in 1979, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.  He also won the Heisman Trophy in 1963 when he played football for the Naval Academy.

He was called “Captain America” when he played in Dallas because of his “All American boy, squeaky-clean” image.  He was devoted to his wife and children; he lived a moral life—and he took his Catholic faith VERY SERIOUSLY!
He even used a Catholic image once to describe a play he was involved in.  In a 1978 playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, Roger threw a last-second, 50 yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson.  When he was asked about the play after the game, he said that when he threw the ball, “I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

And ever since then last-second, desperation passes in football games have been called “Hail Mary passes.”

It all started with Roger Staubach.  (A little football trivia!)

But what impressed me most about this documentary was that it made something very clear: people are saying the same positive things about Roger Staubach now—36 years after his retirement—that they were saying about him when he played in the NFL.  In fact, many of his former teammates are saying even greater things about him now, because of how Roger has helped them emotionally, spiritually—and even financially—since they left the game.  At least two former teammates were quoted in this program as saying, “Roger saved my life—he literally saved my life.”  One was linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, whom Roger helped in the early 1980s, when Henderson had a very severe drug problem.

Fellow Hall of Famer Troy Aikman summed it all up beautifully when he said, “He’s everything that people think that he is—and that’s rare.  Roger is held to such a lofty standard that it would be hard for anyone to live up to that.  But he does.”

Am I saying here that Roger Staubach is a saint?

No, I’m not.  He’s a sinner, just like the rest of us: a sinner who, like the rest of us, is called to be a saint.  But the good news is that he seems to be on the right road.  From all external indications, Roger Staubach seems to be on the road that he needs to be on in order to attain that heavenly goal.

And apparently he’s been on it for many years.

It was refreshing to watch a program like this one, where goodness and virtue were NOT dealt with in a cynical way—which is the way they are normally dealt with these days in the secular media.

That’s why I mention the program in my homily this afternoon, and why I recommend that you try to see it when the NFL Network rebroadcasts it in the future—even if you’re not a football fan.

The makers of the documentary might not have intended it, but they ended up giving their audience a very inspiring and powerful message.  The message was: “Yes, it’s possible—it’s really and truly possible!  It’s possible that this man, Roger Staubach, actually is a good, moral, caring, virtuous person who lives the faith that he professes.  And if it’s possible for him to be that type of person, it’s possible for everyone to be that type of person.”

Which is precisely why Satan, cynic that he is, would absolutely hate this television program—whereas St. Paul, the apostle, would absolutely love it.

Although someone would probably need to take St. Paul aside before he watched it and explain to him exactly what a football is.