Monday, February 24, 2014

Mashed Potato Love

Mashed Potato Love

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

(note: today, the homily lasted about two minutes. following the homily, Deacon Rick, dressed in a chefs hat and apron, gave a live demonstration about love and unity using potatoes and his grandmother's cooking. It loses a lot in the translation, but areas in yellow are an attempt to describe what was going on)

The original idea for this homily came from pastor Juan Carlos Ortiz, who preached a sermon on unity using the illustration of mashed potatoes. I have expanded the idea greatly, but wanted to give credit to my brother Juan Carlos Ortiz. 

Today our readings have the theme of love and unity.

In the first reading from the Book of Leviticus we read:

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Right there, in the book of Leviticus, we see a standard of love, tolerance, and involvement that challenges us. No hatred for anyone in our community. 

In the 2nd reading, Paul writes to the Church in Corinth, which was ripped up with pride, with spiritual exaltation, with selfishness and with spiritual elitism….and to realize how much they already had….

And then, in case we didn’t get it, we have our gospel reading….in Matthew 
After talking about turning the other cheek, going the 2nd mile, that eye for eye was not enough, Jesus closes out this part of the Sermon on the Mount with the following challenge:

“You have heard that it was said,
You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,
for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.
For if you love those who love you, what benefit will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that?
Do not the pagans do the same?
So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

You want to be like God? You want to be children of your Father? Jesus says love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, but more than anything else, love them—because that’s what God does.
Jesus says, you want to be perfect, love like this! Love that goes beyond brother love, love that is perfect, complete—love that is like God.

Jesus said in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is more than pagan love, more than tax collector love, more than neighborly love, even more than brotherly love. It’s Agape love, a will-directed decision to love everyone in our lives. Not a feeling, but a decision to surrender our pride and our arrogance and our delight in being in the right group and our need to always win the argument—and just love. This is the authentic mark of a Christian—everyone will know it.

Jesus says: All you need is love!

Be perfect, as the heavenly father is perfect.

Amen. (end of homily; rick moves over to the center of the church, with a rolling cart covered with a white table cloth)

(move to the center of the altar)

so the homily is over, but I want to illustrate it a bit more clearly….

For me, I learned a lot about love from my Grandma’s kitchen. She was Sicilian, and if you ate, she loved you. If you didn't eat, and didn't eat a lot, something was terribly wrong with you. She taught me a lot about cooking, and a lot about love, and every day she walked to Mass up the street and prayed for her 6 children. And through her example and through her deeds, she deeply loved.

I want to illustrate love the way my granny illustrated love…from the kitchen, and with complex carbohydrates.

(take off the cover)
Love is like potatoes 

(hold up bag of potatoes—“Catholic Church Potatoes”)

We think we are all right with God because we are all in the same sack, and with the same brand…man, I am a Catholic potato, and I am in the right bag, in the right church, in the church of the apostles….

(hold up little bag of Protestant Evangelical Potatoes)

Yes, we are glad that we are not in the wrong bag of potatoes…those Pentecostal potatoes….do you know this week that our Holy Father interrupted an evangelical Pentecostal convention, where Kenneth Copeland and a lot of the prosperity Pentecostals were gathered, made a live phone call, and instead of telling them that they were in the wrong potato sack, he asked these preachers and leaders to do one thing—to pray for him. That sounds more like love, and that sounds more like unity. The world sees all these sacks of potatoes, all claiming to be the One True Potato, and they say, you can’t even agree with each other, and you want me to jump in your bag?

(note: a link to the video that Pope Francis recorded is here)

But it’s more than that….sometimes we say….”I’m a big potato (hold up a big one)…you are…what? (little one) you are small potatoes. In fact, you are a …wait for it…(pull out some fries) a small fry! I’m not sure you are even good for my health…

But it can get worse… see, I am a white potato

(hold up big white potato)….

you are red, or brown, or yellow. I am a legal Potato! 

(see, I am from Colorado…..), 

you are from some other land….Mexico, or even Idaho…you can’t be in my bag coming from there. You have to self-deport yourself and go back to where you were born.

Sometimes we run into potatoes who are completely different than “us regular potatoes”…they tell us, I can’t help being this kind of potato…I was born this way…..and instead of welcoming that potato into our bag, we want to tell him how wrong he is to be a ….

(hold up the sweet potato)

…..sweet potato. We want to pass a law to prohibit people who are not in our Catholic potato group from living their lives, or to force them to believe or behave how we believe of behave. And the last thing we want to do is love those potatoes, those people, pray for those people, and be Jesus to those people. We want to make sure they understand how NOT like us they are. 

Our love has to go deeper than this.

Jesus says, “don’t the pagans do that?” “don’t the tax collectors do that?” If we love those who are just like us, we are no better than the IRS Potatoes or the Pagan Potatoes……

We are talking about more than neighbor love, more than brother love, more than “we’re all in the same group” love—we are talking about a self-willed decision to strip away our pride 

(start peeling a potato)….

to strip away all the things we hold on to that make us different, to peel away our prejudices, to peel away our love of the possessions that are America’s way of keeping score, and to voluntarily make ourselves servants of one another…..

This is painful (start cutting the big potatoes)….

if we pray for this, God will use events and people to cut us down to size….until here we are….all together, all one, being in the same bowl….praise Jesus! We are one, and there is no Jew of Greek, male nor female, slave, free…we are all one in Christ

Look at that!

(hold up a glass bowl of sliced and peeled potatoes)

We are all one—we are all the same.
Well, God’s not done yet. He wants agape, He wants unity, He wants oneness.
Beyond all that, until we start to recognize that every human being on this planet was created in the image and likeness of God 

Beyond being in the same sack kind of love

Beyond being in the same bowl kind of unity

We are talking about mashed potato love!

(start the mixer)

Mashed potato love? 

But I don’t want to do mashed potato love! 

I’m better off with being a baked potato…yeah, that’s my gift!

I am going to lose my identity if I start loving like this. What will become of me? Someone will take advantage of me? Someone will get too close to me—nope, it’s mashed potatoes….

You start praying that prayer to be perfect, to love like Christ commands, and you will find all kinds of ways to get involved with each other….sometimes that takes some getting used to….which is why we need the sacraments….

The sacraments are that milk poured into our lives that take away the lumps, that butter—the oil of gladness—that makes us fluffy and light—that dash of salt—Paul says to let our speech be seasoned with salt—oh yes…..and those little graces—like the sour cream and the bacon bits—oh yes! 

We are talking about mashed potato love….and if you could ever cook like my grandmother, about this time you would start smelling something that smells like wonderful …you would smell something that smelled like love, something that smelled like family, something that would cure all the hatred in the world, all the bitterness and anger, something that would make us more that brothers, that would make us family, and nothing smells like lovin’ that something from Jesus’ oven—love as I have loved you….

Hold up a hot fresh thing of potatoes….walk to the front pew)

(now, doesn’t that smell good?) –too bad we don’t eat before communion…..but can I let you smell it just a moment….I’ll put it with the doughnuts after mass this morning…..

But I say to you, love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father,.
. . . So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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