Homily: "Self-centred narcissism"
By Mons. Peter Jeffrey:
An article in Saturday’s Age caught my attention. The heading was “Narcissism on the rise and we are to blame”. It was illustrating how ‘satisfying the self’ has become the most important thing in life. That is very challenging because it is the opposite of a Gospel way of life.
On this Sunday, which is being observed as Child Protection Sunday, I suggest that Mary, the mother of Jesus and hopefully parents generally are the antithesis (the very opposite) of self-centred narcissism.
We had a special whole school Mass in the Marian centre on Friday to celebrate Mary’s birthday. At the conclusion, we lit candles on a birthday cake as we all sang Happy Birthday in honour of Mary. As you know, the motto of St. Mary’s school is “Let your light shine”. We do that by sharing our gifts and talents with others. That was beautifully symbolised by the candle we lit and the cake that we shared.
Mary is the model for all of us – she listened to God and responded to His will. She replied to the angel at the Annunciation “Be it done unto me according to your word.” What a bold contrast that is to the modern entrapment of many of our contemporaries in self-centredness or narcissism.
Parents and teachers have the mission to model for children the path to living for others as the way towards true adulthood. I like the story Pope Francis tells about himself as a young boy at school. His mother heard that he had made some unpleasant remark to a teacher. She not only rebuked Francis, she took him along to apologise to the teacher. He was to kiss the teacher as a sign of his repentance. Having done that, Francis was thinking to himself “the story is over”. However, it was not! He had to face the music at home as well.
To me that story illustrates that collaboration between home and school is so vital. That is especially so when we think of the challenges that come from our current culture and society, from the mass media, and from new technologies. It is in this environment that both parents and teachers are forming the younger generation for human, civil and Christian growth in 2018 and beyond.
Today is Child Protection Sunday. It is a time for asking how we can make the Parish and St. Mary’s school an even better welcoming space in which children can flourish and always be safe. The readings for today’s Mass invite us to reflect on this task. Isaiah was addressing a community experiencing hard times. Exiled from Israel, they were dispirited and isolated. Perhaps that experience resonates with many Catholics today for whom the crimes of sexual abuse of children can easily sap their confidence and joy in living their faith. The burden is heavy for those whose loved ones are suffering because of such crimes.
That passage from Isaiah also describes in vivid images what it means to be “made whole” again – it is like the blind suddenly seeing, the deaf hearing and the lame walking freely again. Isaiah speaks of parched land becoming green and fertile land where streams will flow again. We pray that our schools and Parishes will always be like that - places where children grow and thrive.
Finally, we could say a lot about the Gospel passage from Mark. It is about having the ears to hear the Word of God challenging us to listen to those who need us to listen to them maybe at home or it maybe someone who wants to talk about something that is worrying them.
In this Mass, we could confidently ask Jesus to open our ears so that we can listen closely to people who come across our path this week. There may be people who need us to listen to them. Perhaps we could ask Jesus to show us who are the people who will come across our path this week who need us to listen to them. On the other hand, Jesus may need to show us the people to whom we need to listen by hearing what they want to point out to us. That is quite a different matter. We may find that we are often reluctant to do the latter.
Pray about it.
*This is a copy of Mons' homily on the 22nd Sunday in ordinary time, 2018