Sunday, November 10, 2013


I'm leaving for my annual retreat right after Masses today.  I'll be spending the week with the Sisters of Bethlehem at the their monastery outside of Livingston Manor.  So, that means no homily for you next Sunday.  In the meantime, please keep me in your prayers!

   Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time    

A man and his—shall we say—“difficult” wife
took a trip to Jerusalem.
While there, she unexpectedly died.
A local undertaker told her husband,
“I can bury your wife here in the Holy Land for just $150,
or we can send her back to be buried at home for $5,000.”
In the blink of an eye, the widower responded, “Send her home.”
“But sir,” the undertaker continued,
“why go to such great expense?
We can provide her with a beautiful funeral and grave right here.”
To which the husband replied, “Long ago, a man died here,
was buried here, and three days later rose from the dead.
I just can’t take that chance.”

Not all the Jews of Jesus’ day believed in it.
Acceptance of the idea had been growing for some time,
but the Sadducees—the old guard—would have none of it.
They could not believe in an afterlife.
Any rewards or punishments we human beings were to receive
would be dished out in this life.
(That’s why they were so “sad, you see.”)
Faith in the resurrection—
that we, like Christ, will rise again to live forever—
became a rather distinguishing characteristic
of the earliest Christians.

Such a faith ought to distinguish us just as much today.

What we believe about resurrection
affects how we think about the future.
The most enduring and perplexing question
faced by the human race in every generation is:
What happens when we die?
The Sadducees weren’t willing to take a chance
by believing in a life beyond this one that they knew,
and so even their questioning of Jesus on the subject—
“Whose wife will that woman be?”—
is pretty convoluted and confused.
Thinking about heaven and hell,
about the last judgement and purgatory,
about “the life of the world to come,”
is likewise pretty muddled in our own day.
But if you belong to Jesus,
if you area child of God rather than a child of this age,
then faith tells you that you are but a shadow of your future self.
In the here and now, sin distorts and death downgrades us.
But in the new creation, in our totality—in both body and soul—
we will experience a life that is full and glorious;
we will know an intimacy—with God and with one another—
that far surpasses that of earthly marriage;
we will not suffer loss,
but will be made more and more alive.  (cf. N. T. Wright and J. D. Franks)

And what we believe about resurrection
also affects how we live today.
Just look at the noble and courageous example 
of those seven martyrs in the second Book of Maccabees.
They remain steadfastly faithful to their religion and its law
in the face of a most cruel death,
not because they have some peculiar taste for suffering,
nor because they wish to flee from this world, 
but because they firmly believe 
that the God who gives us life
will also sustain it well beyond
the narrow limits of our understanding.  (cf. J. Martens)
We will all die—from the greatest to the least;
it’s living that’s the trick.  (cf. R. Smith)
Believing in resurrection,
believing that we are made for another world,
necessarily transforms the manner
in which we make our way through this one.

We who put our faith in the God of Jesus Christ
willingly take a chance in believing
that he is not God of the dead, but of the living.
Because to God “all are alive,”
we can “look forward to the resurrection of the dead.”
It’s an article of faith about the future
with immense power to shape the present.

William Penn, the seventeenth century founder of Pennsylvania,
composed a prayer which captures well
the faith that ought to distinguish us:
            We give back to you, O God, those whom you gave to us.
            You did not lose them when you gave them to us,
            and we do not lose them by their return to you.
            Your dear Son has taught us that life is eternal,
            and love cannot die.
            So death is only an horizon,
            and an horizon is only the limit of our sight.
            Open our eyes to see more clearly,
            and draw us closer to you 
            that we may know we are nearer to our loved ones,
            who are with you.
            You have told us that you are preparing a place for us;
            prepare us also for that place,
            that where you are we may also be always,
            O dear Lord of life and death.

No comments: