Sunday, May 19, 2013

Baseball and marriage

Baseball is a game and normally the failures of its players are not tragic.  In fact, they can be comical.  Errors, mishaps, bloopers, and bonehead plays have an enduring charm of their own. 

Marv Throneberry symbolized the futility of one of the worst teams in the history of baseball—the 1962 New York Mets—losers of a record 120 games.  In a game against the Chicago Cubs, Marvelous Marv steamed into third base with what he thought was a triple.  Ernie Banks took a relay throw and stepped on first base. The umpire declared Throneberry out because he did not touch first base.  When manager Casey Stengel came out to protest the call, the umpire pointed out that Marv had also failed to touch second base.  Throneberry might as well have stayed home.

Baseball, like life, demands order - first base–second base–then third base.  The game does not abide disorder.  A runner cannot proceed from the batter’s box directly to third base.  In committing a violation of the rules, the runner is called “out”.  Baseball cannot remain an intelligible game unless it prohibits such disordered base running.  Its rules are its lifeblood.

So, it is with marriage.  A successful marriage demands that certain rules must be followed.  Jesus tells us to love one another as he has loved us.  So, the rules of marriage are based upon the love that Jesus has for us.  Jesus’ love for us is free, total, faithful, fruitful, and forever.  The love of husband and wife is also meant to be free, total, fruitful, faithful, and forever.  I’d like to give you examples of love which fits each of these five key characteristics.

Love is free.  We see an example of that freedom in the love of Andrew and Liz this morning.  Clearly each of them freely decided to get married.  They went together for several years before they were engaged and have been engaged for about a year before getting married.  Andrew even carried the engagement ring around in his pocket for about a month before he found the perfect time and place to give it to Liz.  The first reading says: “My lover belongs to me and I to him.”  This belonging is given freely.  One spouse doesn’t possess the other one. Instead each freely gives themselves to the other.

Love is faithful.  Carlene and Gene used to live across the street from here. I didn’t get to know them until their children were grown.  But, I understand that they had some difficult times when their children were growing up.  When I began presiding at the Friday morning communion service several years’ ago, Gene would come up to communion and would ask for a host for Carlene.  Gene visited Carlene each day at the nursing home and took communion to her.  Even after she became so sick that she no longer could receive communion, Gene still visited Carlene each day until her death about a year ago.  Gene’s love for Carlene was truly faithful.  It was a great example of faithful married love to all of their children, their grandchildren, and all of us.  Gene’s love was tested by Carlene’s lengthy illness.  Gene was faithful to the end.

Love is fruitful.  Each Sunday as I look at the congregation from here on the altar, I see many mothers and fathers with their young children.  As I see them patiently caring for their children, it is the perfect example of fruitful love.  Once, several years’ ago, Emily was sitting in the second pew with her young daughter.  At the beginning of Father Rob’s homily, her daughter began to make noise and she took her out.  Later in the homily, her daughter had quieted down and Emily came back in with her.  But, she had no sooner returned to the pew than her daughter began to make noise again.  So, even before Father Rob finished the homily, Emily had to go out again.  For me, Emily is an example of the fruitful and patient love of a mother.

Love is forever.  Kathleen and I have been married almost forty five years.  When we were married, Kathleen gave me a rosary on which was inscribed the word “Forever” and the date July 6, 1968.  Kathleen clearly understood that marriage is forever.   In 1982, Kathleen and I attended a marriage encounter weekend.  At the time, Kathleen was pregnant with our fifth child, Ann.  On that weekend, one couple gave a talk about their relationship with God.  They said that a strong marriage is like a tripod with three legs: the husband, the wife and God.  For a marriage to last forever, strong communication between all three, husband, wife and God, is needed.  Kathleen and I commented that we communicated pretty well with each other but had little communication with God except for mass on Sunday.  We each resolved to improve our communication with God.  Over the years, each of us has improved our prayer life and our marriage has grown stronger.  We pray that Andrew and Liz, during the difficult times, will lean on God and His grace, so that their marriage will last forever.

Love is total.  Christ’s love for us is the perfect example of total love.  He loved us so much that he willingly gave his life for us on the cross.  Jesus’ crucifixion and death is depicted in the beautiful stations that we see around this church.  It is not likely that any of us will be tested to the extent that Christ was.  But, eventually each of us will find our love tested.  Suffering and sacrifice is the true test of love.  John’s Gospel tells us:  “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. “  Sometimes love hurts.  Total love involves suffering.

As I was preparing to write this homily, I asked Andrew and Liz a few questions to give me a sense of their love for each other.  One question I asked was: What quality of your fiancĂ©e made you fall in love with him or her?  Andrew responded that Liz’s unconditional love made him fall in love with her.  Wow!   What a great quality!  We’re all looking for that unconditional love.  Andrew and Liz, we pray that you will still see that unconditional love in each other, a love which is free, total, faithful, fruitful, and forever, as you celebrate your twentieth, thirtieth, fortieth, and even fiftieth wedding anniversaries.  We pray for all married couples here today as we joyfully witness the marriage of Andrew and Liz.  We pray that all married couples can hit a home run and lead each other to the heavenly marriage feast and, to the eternal, unconditional love of the Father.  God bless.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mothers - a great example of love and sacrifice

Last year, Publix supermarkets aired a commercial that shows the role of a mother both before and after her child is born.  The ad features a young girl helping her pregnant mother in the kitchen.  The little girl asks, “Can the baby hear me?” to which the mother responds, “I think so!”  When prompted by her mother to tell the baby a secret, the little girl embraces her mother’s pregnant belly and says, “You’re really going to love mom.”

The cartoon character Dennis the Menace told his friend Joey, "I don't know what I'll do when my mom gets too old to tie my shoes." 

A wise man once said: “To become a mother is not so difficult; on the other hand, being a mother is very difficult!"   

Who was the greatest influence in your life?  Has a teacher or a professor been your greatest influence? Perhaps you would say that a friend or maybe your spouse has influenced you the most. A recent poll asked that question to more than 4,000 adults. The results were revealing.  According to the poll, the person with the greatest influence was their mother: 42% of men and 53% of woman said that their mother was the most influential person in their life.

For all its stumbling blocks and pitfalls, motherhood is a natural part of God's creative order to bring love and caring to others. Motherhood as God planned it is a wonderful thing. We should honor it and lift it up is a beautiful example of love and sacrifice.  And we should teach the highest ideals of motherhood by words and example to our children.

The second reading mentions the hope and faithfulness of Jesus as it says:  “Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy.”  Christ is always faithful. Most of our mothers were faithful and unwavering in passing the faith to us by their words and example.

Most of us here today were baptized when we were a very young.  Our parents, especially our mother, gave us the gift of our faith in baptism and then taught us our faith as we grew up.  I suspect that many of us wouldn’t be here today if not for the unwavering faith of our mother.  I probably wouldn’t be a practicing Catholic if it weren’t for the faith of my mother and I wouldn’t be a deacon if not for the faith and support of my wife. 

 Last Sunday, during mass, I saw a young mother in the back foyer watching her toddler.  During the consecration, this mother knelt right in the middle of the foyer.  This was a great example of faith to me.  I’m sure it was difficult to keep track of her toddler while she knelt.  But, in faith, she continued to kneel all during the consecration. 

In the Gospel, Jesus told his apostles that they would be clothed with power from on high.  Mothers, by their baptism and their confirmation, are clothed with power from on high when they give birth to a child.  This power gives them the strength and the courage to raise their children in the faith.  Mothers are often the glue that holds the family together.  And the family is the glue that holds our Church and our nation together.

On this Mother's Day we pause to honor mothers and to reflect on the important contribution they have made to our lives and to society.  For most of us, our lives would have been empty without them.  

Let us pray:  Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we thank You for our mothers to whom You have entrusted the care of every precious human life from its very beginning in the womb.
You have given women the capacity of participating with You in the creation of new life. Grant that every woman may come to understand the full meaning of that blessing, which gives her a capacity for selfless love for every child she may be privileged to bear, and for all Your children.
To mothers You have given the great privilege and responsibility of being a child's first teacher and spiritual guide. Grant that all mothers may foster the faith of their children. Help mothers to grow daily in the knowledge and understanding of Your Son, and grant them the wisdom to impart this knowledge faithfully to their children and to all who depend upon them.

We ask your blessing on all those to whom You have entrusted motherhood. May Your Holy Spirit constantly inspire and strengthen them. May they follow the example of Mary, mother of Our Lord, and imitate her fidelity, her humility, and her self-giving love. May all mothers receive Your Grace abundantly in this earthly life, and may they look forward to eternal joy.  We ask this through Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen