Trading Illusion for Truth

(November 25, 2018)

Bottom line: With Jesus tomorrow is another day. It involves conversion - trading illusion for truth.

I know this is going to mark me but one of my favorite movies - and books - is Gone With the Wind. Some parts are hard to read today. Still, I love the book because of the heroine, Scarlett O'Hara: resilient, undefeated, her motto, "tomorrow is another day."

A few years ago I was delighted when a high school girl told me she was reading Gone with the Wind. She was facing serious struggles. I told her, "you are Scarlett O'Hara."

As much as I love Scarlett O'Hara she has a fatal flaw. She loves the wrong man: Ashley Wilkes. Unfortunately for Scarlett he marries Melanie. By default Scarlett eventually marries Rhett Butler. Rhett's no fool. He knows Scarlett pines for Ashley. He keeps trying to wake her up - to realize she is living an illusion. In the end Melanie dies tragically and Scarlett of course runs to Ashley - only to discover she has been chasing a phantom.

Gone with the Wind strikes a deep chord because it tells an ancient story. It's a story as old as the Garden of Eden - when our first parents sought happiness in something other than God. That story runs through human history - and in your life and mine.

With that basic story in mind I turn to today's readings. In the prophet Daniel we hear the promise of "one like a Son of Man" who receives dominion, glory and kingship. He is rightful king of the universe and of our lives. Yet he does not force himself on us. We have to make a choice - to receive his kingship or not.

That's why the first time Jesus openly declares himself king is when he stands before Pilate. Humiliated and powerless, he confirms that he is king - not a king of political power but of truth. Political power involves coercion; truth involves conversion. The words sound similar, but there's a big difference. Coercion means forceful submission; conversion means free acceptance - giving one's heart. I pay my income tax, yes, because I love our country, but also because if I don't, the consequences could be bad. That's coercion - and it's a necessary part of civil government. On the other hand, I make a Stewardship commitment because of gratitude to God. That's conversion. As we begin Advent next week we'll see other dimensions of conversion.

Jesus invites conversion by saying he is the Alpha and the Omega - the one who is and who is to come. He invites conversion above all by his death for us. Jesus always offers hope and mercy.

To help understand Jesus' offer, let's return to Scarlett O'Hara. At the end of the novel we see she has made a mess of things. She realizes Ashley is an illusion and tries to go back to Rhett. But it's too late. He utters a line they have to censor: Frankly, my dear, I don't give a...darn.

But Scarlett has the last word. After Rhett leaves she lifts her head and says, "Tomorrow is another day." I take that as a statement of faith - of trust and of course hope.

We humans can make a mess of things. Just look around. We've done it in the Church; we seem to be doing it in our country; perhaps in our families and personal lives. We've chased illusions. But with Jesus tomorrow is another day. That involves conversion - trading illusion for truth. As Jesus says, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." Amen.


Spanish Version

From Archives (Christ the King - Year B):

2015: Something for You Week 5: Power
2012: All or Nothing
2009: Beautiful Impulses
2006: I Am the Alpha and the Omega
2003: He Accepted Jesus as King
2000: True Self Esteem
1997: They Are Ruining my Daughter's Self Esteem

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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