Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pineapples and welcoming

On my birthday today, I gave the homily at the children's mass.  I took a pineapple to the pulpit and explained to the children the importance of welcoming Jesus into our lives.  This is what I said:

I bought this pineapple at Kroger’s so that I could use it during my homily this morning.  And, best of all, after I use it for the homily, I can take it home and eat it.  Has anyone had fresh pineapple?  It’s really good, isn’t it?

When I was growing up, the only pineapple that we had was pineapple from a can.  Now, this is OK, but fresh pineapple is much better.   When I was in the Air Force, we were stationed in Hawaii and lived for one year on the north shore.  I drove through the pineapple fields on my way to and from work.  And we often bought pineapples which had recently been picked.  I developed a love for pineapple and look forward to eating this one. 

Maybe you’ve seen welcome mats with pineapples on them. There’s an interesting story connected with pineapples. Over one hundred years ago, before there were airplanes, most travel was done by great ships that traveled over the sea. When a great sea captain returned from some exotic place, he’d bring home a pineapple and put the pineapple on his front gate. There were two reasons why he did that: first, not many of his neighbors had ever seen a pineapple, and they thought it was really neat-looking; the second reason was so he could let everyone know that he was home and he wanted people to come visit. Back then, if you saw a pineapple on somebody’s front gate, it meant “Welcome! I’d like for you to come visit my house.” Even today, we use the pineapple as a symbol for welcoming people.

Last Sunday was the feast of Christ the King.  Christ wants to welcome each one of us into heaven.  Who knows, there might even be a pineapple on the front gate there to welcome us.  Of course, we weren’t very welcoming to Christ while he was here on earth.  First Herod tried to kill him when he ordered all of the Jewish boys under three to be killed.  Then, thirty years later, Christ was crucified as King of the Jews.  By Jesus accepting this rude welcoming, he shows his great love for us.  We have to choose whether or not we’ll accept his invitation to join him in heaven as we either welcome him into our lives or turn away from him day in and day out.   

How do we welcome Jesus into our lives? By praying to him, by following his commandments, by going to mass, by helping others.  We don’t need to put a pineapple outside our houses, do we?  We have to do is pray to Jesus and to follow his commandments.  Let us pray, “Lord Jesus, I’m so glad you came to earth to tell us about your Father and to show us the way to heaven. I want you to come into my heart, my life, and my home this Christmas.” 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

After the election, where do we go from here

Tonight, as we reflect upon our recent election, we might have a sense of despair.  We might have wondered, “what went wrong”, as we watched our fellow Americans including us Ohioans reelect President Obama.  Given the HHS mandate and its attack on religious freedom, how could the majority of Catholics have voted for the president?  Given his strong support of abortion and contraceptives, how could the vast majority of women have voted for him?   Did we just have the wrong candidate or the wrong message?  And where do we, as Catholics committed to life and marriage, go from here?

We must have courage and rejoice as St Peter tells us tonight even though we may have to suffer various trials.  Our objective, the salvation of souls, hasn’t changed.  We may have to work harder to achieve that objective, but the objective remains.  And we still in faith believe that Jesus, through his death on the cross, has already won salvation for us.  So, we may have lost a battle in this war, but we can remain confident, even certain, that ultimately Jesus emerges triumphant. 

I know that some say that “America cannot end.” But that is the first illusion we must put away, because it says that America is eternal, when nothing is eternal but God. Some say “we just need the right message,” but who had a better message than Christ, and the crowd still called for Barabbas. Who was more blessed than the apostles and saints, but they still were set upon and slain.

God’s blessing, if it is truly upon America, does not mean that she survives forever. In fact, if she is truly blessed, it means she gets to suffer for the sake of clarity — to spend some time in the crucible, in order to be refined.   For the road to heaven goes through Calvary for us as individuals and for our nation.

Our job at this point is not to save the nation. Our job now is to save each other; to help spiritually strengthen each other for all that is yet to come.

People of faith, take a good hard look at the new landscape and do not be afraid.  Changes are going to come and they’re going to come quickly, so now is the time to work on strengthening our spiritual lives.  We must make our spiritual lives stronger and healthier through prayer, fasting, and service to others.  And we strengthen our spiritual lives by divesting ourselves of the world and all of its things, its glamor and its empty promises.

We must be ready to help when those who are lost in the glamor and emptiness of this world become lonely.  And they will.  If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.

Believers who feel defeated by this election have actually been given a great gift; they’ve been given the opportunity to divest themselves of the sin of idolatry and pride. The battle is not between parties or between liberals and conservatives; it is between things seen and unseen. It is between light and dark.  It plays out ultimately for the profit of our souls, not our retirement accounts. If we are professing Christians, then we understand things are moving forward to a certain conclusion; the pageant of salvation leads, always, to a complete divesting of everything that has come before. The only way to victory, now is to depend strictly upon God. And God’s ways are not our ways, his thoughts not our thoughts, his “shining city on a hill” like nothing in our imagining.

There is cause for rejoicing here. I am excited. I am energized. I’m taking God at his word, as I read those inspiring words from St Peter tonight:  “Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.  As the outcome of your faith, you obtain the salvation of your souls.” 

Praise the Lord.  Keep the faith.  There is plenty of work for us to do in this kingdom of God on earth.  As followers of Christ, we have the answer for this broken world.  Do not be afraid to proclaim this truth in love.