NOTE: This article is the homily of Rev. Dr. Sergio Arevalo, Jr. on July12, 2009 when Mr. & Mrs. July Buenaventura invited him to officiate the house blessing and child baptism of Immanuel Juna in Victorville, California.
What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until she finds it? “And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ (Luke 15: 8-9, NKJ).
Thank you very much for inviting us today to share with you this moment of celebration and dedication. I said celebration simply because we celebrate the acquisition of this house even though the world is in recession some say depression. A lot of people are laid off from their jobs, a lot of people have no houses due to foreclosures, a lot of people have no money to pay their mortgage, a lot of people have no shelter to live in, a lot of people have no food to eat, a lot of people have no clothes to wear and a lot of people have no God to celebrate with them.
In order to have a genuine celebration we need to consider the following:
You have something to celebrate, be it material, spiritual, inspirational, experiential, financial, or intellectual. When I discovered a certain program/ site in the Internet, I said to myself this is a great tool to making social network for specific people I know. I have no formal education in the information or computer technology so this new learning is gold to me. I tested and applied it to the people I know. Now I already created 12 social networks in six months like WesleyNet, WupNet, PcuNet, AraulloNet, etc. and they are growing in memberships! I celebrate due to these social networks I created.
Today we celebrate due to the acquisition of this house. Despite of hardships, the owners got this and dedicate to be a haven of love and service. We also celebrate today due to a new “angel” who is becoming Christian through baptism.
Genuine celebration needs to have people who would express their feelings of celebration. That feeling is usually associated with joy! In Luke 15, when the shepherd found his sheep he gathered his buddies and neighbors, and exclaimed, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost” (15:6). When the woman found his lost coin she gathered her friends and said, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost” (15:9). When the prodigal son came home, his father was so joyful. The father gathered his friends and neighbors and they had feasting! The father said, “We had to celebrate and rejoice because [my son] was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found” (15:32).
However, joy can be translated into many forms. There are people who are expressive through shouts, laughter, smile, and cry. However, those are not the only forms of expression of joy. Some people express their joy in travel, writing, poem, music, songs, prayers, praises, photography, and arts. Some biblical characters and for most Filipinos we celebrate through foods and fellowships. When you go home, in the Philippines, your buddies will say: “Pare, umuwi ka pala, painom ka naman!”
As I already mentioned, in celebration we need people to express our feelings of joy. Our biblical characters celebrated their joy by sharing to others! It is not enough to celebrate by yourself; and when you are celebrating alone, you must lock your door, and laugh and shout inside your sound proof room; or else people who hear you might suspect that you are mentally retarded! We need people in our moment of rejoicing. You should connect with them to make your rejoicing genuine and lasting. You can connect in many ways such as food, fellowships, or sharing of what you have. People might forget the reason of your rejoicing, but it is hard for them to forget the act of connection.
Genuine celebration must have an object to be meaningful. Object means “the end toward which effort or action is directed,” or “something toward which a cognitive act is directed” (metaphysics). In our celebration today, our object must be our God! We “return” to Him whatever are the reasons of our rejoicing today. That’s why the biblical people offered their fruits of their labor to God as a sign of their faith to the object of their faith. Making God as the object of our celebration reveals our faith in Him. Faith is the very reason of our being. Faith is the very reason of our coming together. Faith is the reason of having baptism today. Faith is the reason of dedicating this abode to God today.
Let me share with you a story:
A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said, ‘”Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.” The Lord led the holy man to two doors. He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in.
In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water. The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths. The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.
The Lord said, “You have seen Hell. Here is the Heaven.”
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking. The holy man said, “I don’t understand.”
“It is simple,” said the Lord. “It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.”
In the spirit of celebration, to make it genuine and meaningful, one must have something to celebrate with joy, with people around us, where the object is our God.