The 2016 Presidential Election, LSU vs Alabama, “the Cubs win the World series!” and Advent. What do these four events have in common? Strong emotions! This stirring of the soul is a reminder of how our vantage point effects what we think, believe and actually feel. Since we have differing views and experiences, our emotions will vary from event to event. Yet there are many truths that remain constant and life-giving.
When mentioned,”Election Day is getting close” what is the reaction received? I have seen a rolling-of-the-eyes followed by a “Thank God, it’s almost over.” I have also witnessed other reactions such as, “Looking forward to the results” and “I have been praying every day!” The overall reaction has been one of worry, anxiety and the added bonus of aggravation. As Catholics we are called to vote. Yes! We cannot bury our heads in the sand and wait for the “storm” to blow over. Rather, lift up your eyes to heaven and breathe the freshness of God’s graces. We are citizens of heaven and residents of earth. We serve God, first, following His laws and ways, namely living the Golden Rule and the Beatitudes. We also are called as dutiful patriots to follow the law of the land. The struggle occurs when God’s Law and humanity’s law contradict one another. What are we to do when candidates locally and nationally contradict in the same manner? We speak up. As Americans Freedom of Speech is Amendment #1 to the U.S. Constitution. Why? Because the country we separated from had laws restricting public vocalization of criticism toward public institutions. So as Catholic Americans we are called to voice our concerns regarding laws that contradict God’s law.
Pope Francis clearly states in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, “Consequently, no one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. Who would claim to lock up in a church and silence the message of Saint Francis of Assisi or Blessed Teresa of Calcutta? … An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal – always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better that we found it. We love this magnificent planet on which God has put us, and we love the human family which dwells here, with all its tragedies and struggles, its hopes and aspirations, its strengths and weaknesses. … If indeed “the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics”, the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice”. All Christians, their pastors included, are called to show concern for the building of a better world. This is essential, for the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it unites “its own commitment to that made in the social field by other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, whether at the level of doctrinal reflection or at the practical level”. Amen to that!
LSU vs. Alabama
Next event stirring up passionate emotions this week(s) is this HUGE Southeastern Conference College Football game between the LSU Fighting Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide. I shall remain neutral as long as my fingers can type words which show neaux favoritism. 🙂 I was in line to early vote last Tuesday and a woman in line was wearing a University of Alabama team shirt. Of course she was teased. She just stood there and smiled like a Cheshire cat, taking “persecution” from silly Tiger fans. It was all in good taste with lots of smiles. But she did impress in standing firm in her commitment and never wavered from her loyalty.
Her reaction reminded me of the Beatitudes given to us by Jesus’ found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Now granted, her “persecution” is minuscule compared to those who, indeed, suffer greatly and are tortured because of their commitment to the Christian faith. It was her response that inspired me to remember to stand firm in what we know to be real and true. She knows Alabama football is strong and powerful. This is a known truth. She knows they have a higher chance of winning the game. Statistics show this is true. Based on these basic truths she held her head up and smiled. When have you been ridiculed about the truth of our faith? Did you hold your head high and smile? Did you try to explain the truth to the other? Or did you say or do nothing.Remember the quote previous by Pope Francis, “An authentic faith – which is never comfortable or completely personal always involves a deep desire to change the world.” Stay close to the truth and remember “for nothing will be impossible for God…” [Luke 1:37] and Geaux Tigers!
Cubs Win the World Series!
And yes, all is possible for God. I never thought I’d blog about the World Series but here we go! Heaven was stormed with prayers by Chicago Cub fans over the last week! I always cheer for the underdog. Let’s face it, 43 years of cheering for the New Orleans Saints before the 2010 Super Bowl win practically makes one qualify for canonization. I can only imagine the prayers said during this 2016 World Series by both teams. Our priest says you should not pray for a team to win a game but instead pray for a good game. Tell that to Cub fans who have prayed for 140 years for a championship!
But our pastor is right. Praying for a team to win a game seems trivial compared to petitions needed for those who are ill, hopeless and marginalized. Using baseball terminology as an analogy we can say: When the ill “step-up to bat” they are facing uncertainty, doubt and fear through medical treatments, testing and results . When the hopeless get a “hit” they make progress toward “home” again to restored hope. When the marginalized do cross “home-plate” they are welcome with open arms. This “championship” is a far greater glory for God. We are called to be persistent “coaches,” increasing strength and endurance of the “team”. We are also called to be committed “fans”cheering them on to eternity with love, prayer and mercy.
Christ, Our King
The end of the liturgical year comes the victory of our King. Talk about a home-run! Pope Francis, in words given before the Angelus on the Solemnity of Christ the King in 2015, explains, “The kingdoms of this world sometimes build themselves on arrogance, rivalry, oppression; the kingdom of Christ is ‘a kingdom of justice, love and peace’,” he said. The Holy Father went on to say, “To reign as He does means to serve God and the brethren – a service that flows from love: to serve for love’s sake is to reign: this is the regality of Jesus. Before so many lacerations in the world, and the too many wounds in the flesh of men, we ask the Virgin Mary to sustain us in our commitment to imitating Jesus, our King, making present His Kingdom with acts of tenderness, compassion and mercy.”
We are reminded of Jesus’ reign over all. His authority flows from service for the sake of love. As His people, we are called to serve His kingdom with love, mercy and peace as the Mystical Body. There is nothing more desirable than to serve Him who has loved us so deeply that He gave His life for our salvation. We humbly kneel before our King as He lifts us in mercy. May our emotion this day be that of pure JOY! Amen. Alleluia. Thanks be to God.