Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 10)

An auction was held on May 18 and 19 at the Hard Rock Café in New York. The items up for grabs were memorabilia from pop culture. Some of Prince’s clothes, Elvis Presley’s jewelry, the outfit Michael Jackson wore on the “Moonwalker” video and a guitar once owned by Bob Dylan were some of the items that went to bid.

Some of the items were auctioned for several hundred-thousand dollars. Several years ago a piano once owned by John Lennon sold for over $2 million. All this to say that our culture has a fascination and desire for things of celebrity.

There was an interesting story a few years ago from London where a rare book store acquired an “Original Bob Dylan artwork” at an auction. The artwork was purported to have been intended as an album cover but was never used. Once the piece was delivered the staff began more extensive research, planning to use the information in marketing the piece.

Employees at the store began their research checking catalogs, similar artwork from Dylan, etc. As they continued they started to see some inconsistences. With time they realized the artwork was a forgery. One of the employees wrote the following caution:

“These (fakes) come in all shapes and sizes; some … are fairly easy to spot; others, painstakingly faked by individuals with an encyclopedic knowledge of both music history and the memorabilia industry, can pose more of a challenge to authentication. Often accompanied by elaborately fabricated origins, it can take both inventive research, specialist industry contacts, and an instinct for authenticity to sniff out a fake.”

The forger wants to lead an unsuspecting buyer to purchase something he or she certainly doesn’t need, but wants. The forger tries to persuade them by their desires and trick them into the purchase. Once sold, the buyer is trapped.

The Book of Genesis tells the story of the Fall. We have the aftermath of that story recounted in the first reading for Mass this Sunday. If you remember the story, Satan persuades Eve to take the fruit off the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and to eat it. He tells her that she will be like God if she does this.

The devil acts as the forger here. He conjures up an image for Eve that is attractive, being like God. He says that God forbids the eating of the fruit because then his creation will be equal to the creator. He plays into Eve’s desire with deceit and cunning. The problem, we know, is that Eve fell into it and so did Adam. They “bought the bill of goods,” so to speak.

We see what happens as a consequence. When the Lord calls to Adam in the garden, Adam hides from God. He is now afraid of God. He is full of shame when he realizes he is naked. When God confronts Adam on his disobedience, Adam blames Eve (and in an indirect way God himself as he says: “the woman you gave me”). Eve blames Satan; neither want to take responsibility. Remarkably absent from the story is any kind of apology or expression of sorrow from either Adam or Eve. They have fallen.

Adam and Eve turn away from the God who loves them. They turn their focus to themselves and everything starts to fall apart. Their relationship with has God suffered, their relationship with each other damaged and their own self-worth, esteem and love has diminished. The situation is not good and begs for healing.

God is the one who heals. The responsorial psalm reminds us of God’s mercy and his power to heal. The psalmist says: “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand?” but then adds “but with you is forgiveness that you may be revered.” Recognizing the mercy that God bestows, he writes: “I trusted in the Lord; my soul trusts in his word … for with the Lord is kindness and with him plenteous redemption and he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.”

Ultimately the healing takes place through the faithfulness of Jesus. He represents us anew before God our Father and remaining faithful – “all the way” – through his life, his ministry, his passion and his death.

God is the one who desires only good for his creation. He loves us and offers us the way to him who is love. Sometimes we might get distracted or misled or get “off the path.” His mercy brings us back. He seeks us and draws us to himself.

The collect prayer (formerly referred to as the “Opening Prayer”) for Sunday’s Mass expresses our desire to do his will so that we might be drawn further into his love. The prayer reads: “O God, from whom all good things come, grant that we, who call on you in our need, may at your prompting discern what is right, and by your guidance do it.”

The desire to know and to do God’s will is prayed for regularly by Christians. When Jesus teaches us to pray he gives us the “Our Father.” In that most frequently used of prayers we pray: “thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.”

Jesus associates the will of God with Christian discipleship in Sunday’s Gospel. When he is informed that family members, including his mother, are outside the house waiting for him, Jesus says: “Who are my mother and my brothers? … Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Jesus uses the family relationships as an image for his disciples (the ones who do the will of God). These are the most important relationships in our lives so when Jesus identifies those who follow God’s will as his family it is very significant. We, his disciples, are part of God’s family.

Satan in the story of the fall sells Adam and Eve a “bill of goods.” Unfortunately, they buy it. As a result, they turn away from God and his way. In doing so they turn from the path to love and life. Satan is the great forger who still tries to deceive and lead astray.

Our prayer today is that we might keep our focus on God and his way so as to experience always the newness of his love and mercy, and the fullness of life that he desires for us.

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.