Sunday, November 10, 2019

Homily for Today

Taken from Catholic Moment;

What is the goal of humans in this world? Is man a product of chance and whose life ends here, or is he destined for another life different from this? What often comes to our minds when we remember our beloved ones who are dead; or in a more personal way, what do we think will be the end of our earthly story? Do we think all will end here or maybe imagine another form of existence as a continuity of the one here? What informs our conviction and our hope for a glorious life with God hereafter?
These questions are pertinent for us to ask ourselves. And as we move from one liturgical year to another, so does the Church call our attention to see our lives in the light of this seasonal movement. The earthly life will certainly cease for all. But the question is, “will that be the end of our life?” The readings today will answer “No” as they introduce us to the notion and reality of resurrection. Thanks to the resurrection of Christ which is the only hope of our resurrection and the foundation of our faith in eternal life.

FIRST READING: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14
The notion of resurrection was not evident in the Torah (first five books of the bible). No doubt this could be the reason why it was scarcely known by the people of the Old Order. However some allusions were made to the concept in some historical and prophetic books. The book of Job seems to be the first place where it was perceived: “After my awakening, he will set me close to him, and from my flesh I shall look on God”(Job 19:26). And Daniel also affirmed it in an apocalyptic vision when he says: “Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace”(Dan. 12:2). Other books that made mention of it include, Psalm 16:10; 49:15; Isaiah 25:8; 26:16-19; and Hosea 13:14.
However, it was not until the second century B.C.E that the faith in the resurrection became a determinant factor for resisting evil as we see in the book of Maccabees today. The I &II books of Maccabees were written by different authors but were named after ‘Judas Maccabaeus’, the hero of the war for Jewish independence against Antiochus IV Epiphanes who once raided the Temple in Jerusalem carrying off all its golden vessels and treasures. He sacrificed pork on the altar thus desecrating the Temple. The height of his exploit was the attempt to Hellenize the Jews by imposing Greek culture and idol worship on them under the pain of torture and death.
The Second Book of Maccabees from which our passage today was taken from affirms the express conviction of the persecuted and faithful Jewish family in the resurrection. These consist of a mother and her seven sons, who refused Antiochus IV Epiphanes’ command to eat pork forbidden as unclean in Leviticus 11:7.
Their faith and conviction in the resurrection was felt in their words:
1. “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.”
2. “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.”
3. “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”
Isn’t it wonderful and faith-boosting to meditate on the words of these young men and to allow ourselves to be guided by them as we hook our lives on the faithful trust in the resurrection.

SECOND READING: 2Thessalonians 2:16—3:5
The second reading shows that St. Paul was well informed about the current trend of faith among the Thessalonian Christians. Their belief in the Parousia, or the “second coming of Jesus in glory,” was very strong. Today Paul encourages them to remain faithful and never be distracted by any false teaching regarding such belief. He equally invites them to remain steadfast in prayer; 1.) So that the Word of God which he is committed to spreading will continue to triumph, and that, 2.) They may all be safe from the hands of the unfaithful fellows. In this way, the apostle exhorts them on the indispensable power of prayer especially as it gives spiritual strength to welcome even the most dreaded moment of life (death) and to embrace this moment as a passage through which we will come face to face with the God who will call us to eternal life.

GOSPEL: Luke 20:27-38
Although the founder is unknown, the origin of the Sadducees is traceable to the 2nd century B.C.E, and spanned till the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. They were predominantly the priestly class and enjoyed the privileges and prerogatives established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor, officiated as High Priest. They were also the political and economic echelon of Jewish society. In other words, they belonged to the first class as against their contemporaries, the Pharisees who held the second class position in the society.
Unlike the Pharisees who were Jesus’s popular opponents, the Sadducees rarely engaged in open confrontation with him. This does not in anyway suggest that Jesus was safer in their hand than in the hand of the Pharisees. On the contrary, unlike the the Pharisees who believed in the interpretation of the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible other wise known as the books of the law believed to have been authored by Moses), the Sadducees were strictly conservatives. They accepted only the Torah in the Hebrew Bible, thus having little or nothing to do with the historical books or the prophets. Contrary to the Pharisees:
1. They did not believe in the notion of Afterlife.
2. They did not believe in existence of angels, spirits and demons.
3. Although they accepted the traditional jewish belief in the Sheol, yet they refused to subscribe to the reality of resurrection.
In today’s gospel, they used the text of Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (the Law which principally assures the social security of widows who had no direct occupancy of the late husbands’ properties) to mock the belief in the resurrection. Since they believed only in the Torah, Jesus also employed the Torah (Exodus. 3:6) to counter their argument implying that the God who revealed himself to Moses in the mystery of the burning Bush as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”, is God’s confirmation of the continuing personal existential relationship of the patriarchs with him. That is Jesus’ notion of “God of the living and not of the dead.” He directly instructs the Sadducees who though claimed they knew the Scriptures, that if their patriarchs were dead and gone, the text (Ex. 3:6) would not have made mention of them. With this answer, his adversaries were trapped because they could not openly deny the holiness of their patriarchs, neither will they disprove their continued relationship with God.
As a prefix to the above response, Jesus first corrected the impression that tend to see the life in the resurrection as a re-living of the life here. Thus the teaching that ‘the children of the resurrection will not marry’ suggests a new type of existence in which they participate in God’s eternity (devoid of corruptibility and multiplicity which are characteristics of bodily existence).

1. We are people of the resurrection:
During his Apostolic visit to the Far East and Oceania in November 30, 1986, Pope St. John Paul encouraged the faith with these beautiful words:
“We do not pretend that life is all beauty. We are aware of darkness and sin, of poverty and pain. But we know Jesus has conquered sin and passed through his own pain to the glory of the Resurrection. And we live in the light of his Paschal Mystery – the mystery of his Death and Resurrection. “We are an Easter People and Alleluia is our song!”

2. We need daily resurrection:
We are often defeated by our weaknesses and paralysed by certain human tendencies. And many a times I have heard people say, “it’s really difficult for me to stop.” Yes it has to be difficult. It was never easy for all the models of our faith. But they never relied on their strength to live through the struggles of this life. They relied on the strength of Him through whom by His wound we are healed. We must live every single day of our lives as if it is our last day. And let this enable us to ‘rise’ constantly whenever we fall, for sin buries us in the world, but reconciliation with God raises us to new life.

3. The resurrection of Christ is our hope:
The ancient Easter proclamation (Exultet) is very rich in meaning as it captures the beauty of the night of the resurrection of Christ. It calls is a Holy Night, the Night of all nights, and the most Blessed of all Nights chosen by God to see Christ rise from the dead. Yes it was not just about the empty tomb which would not have been enough evidence and foundation of our faith in the resurrection. After all, the sodiers were bribed to say that his disciples took away his body at night while they were deep asleep (Mt 28:13). On the contrary, it is about life that has conquered death and assures the believers that they too will conquer death and rise to glory. Thanks to the risen Lord who authenticated the faith in the resurrection by appearing to his disciples and making them to feel the effect of this glorious moment as a prefiguration of the glory . May we never lose sight of the resurrection of Christ so as not to lose our own resurrection.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, You are the Creator and Origin of all that exist. Our lives have no meaning except in You. Be pleased to keep us free from all adversity, so that, unhindered in mind and body alike, we may pursue in freedom of heart the things that are yours until we reach the eternal homeland You have promised us, One God forever and ever. Amen.

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