Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 30, 2017
The other morning, I walked into my mother’s apartment at the assisted living facility where she lives. I wasn’t surprised that the TV was blasting. She always has it on full throttle. But I was taken aback by what she was watching. Typically, if she isn’t “attending Mass” or praying the rosary with her EWTN community, she is binging on cable news (surfing all networks so that she can be truly “fair and balanced” in her read on current events.) This particular day, however, I caught her watching reality TV. It wasn’t as bad as the Kardashians. Still, I was surprised to see “Property Brothers” on the screen. If you haven’t had the pleasure, it is one of nearly 20 programs that deal with finding dilapidated homes and turning them into something worthy of “Architectural Digest.”
When I asked Mom if I could turn down the volume, she said: “Oh sure, I’ve seen this episode three other times.” Somehow, we got distracted and I never got around to asking how, when, or why she became interested in the great dilemma of whether to “Flip or Flop.” But, the next time one of those shows came on, I wasn’t so quick to reach for the remote. And while I can’t see me becoming addicted, I did find the one episode I watched very fascinating. By the end of the show, it occurred to me that it was akin to cable network’s version of a parable about the Kingdom of God.
Clearly, “Property Brothers,” like all of the other TV treasure hunters, have a well-trained eye. They see in a run-down, neglected, and even abandoned building the potential for something wonderful. They don’t just assume that there is profit to be made in turning every shack into a palace; they go on a hunt. And some properties just aren’t worth the risk. Throughout the show, it is made clear to the viewer that there is great financial risk. Not every “flip” makes money. There are, unfortunately, after the investment, of lots of time, hard work, and money, many “flops.” What motivates people to commit to this work, take great risks, and expend so much time and energy into a project? They are driven by the hope of producing something spectacular.
So, why do I see these “Fixer Upper” shows as a parable for the Kingdom of God?
Because the eye of God sees with infinite wisdom into the hearts and the lives of each and every human being that The Creator calls into existence. The devastating consequence of the first bad choice…the original sin…is that much of humanity has fallen into a state of spiritual disrepair. Many spiritual lives are simply abandoned, while others are neglected to the point that there appears to be no value left in them. They stand on the verge of collapsing in on themselves. But, God does not give up. At Romans 8:1, St. Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
And so, like a treasure hunter with the best trained eye, the Holy Spirit continually searches our hearts and our minds…looking for the greatest of treasures…a pearl of infinite value…Christ! And, having recognized the potential in a heart to become something wonderful once again…what God created us to be…the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And God, then, moves forward, “taking the risk,” and begins the process of renewing us, renovating and restoring us…recreating us.
Still, it must be remembered that God is perfectly just. And, in justice, finding a soul that has absolutely no value, no potential, no hope…then there is no choice but to pass that soul by. But, the work of salvation continues…the work of building the Kingdom of God, motivated by the hope that, one day, all creation will be restored to that plan that God had in the beginning!
There is one final connection that I have made between cable TV home improvement shows and the Kingdom of God. One of the more popular programs was called “Trading Places.” That is what God has done with Jesus Christ. God has sent His Son to live among us so that God can see and love in us that which God sees and loves in Jesus.
Jesus IS the treasure. Jesus is the great pearl. And when the Holy Spirit completes the healing work on our damaged spiritual lives…that’s how each of us will look. We will look like the Resurrected Christ.
So turn up the volume on the Holy Spirit and prepare for a “makeover.”