Homily 33rd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C November 17, 2019

Because we live in the Christian virtue of hope, hope in life after death being the highest hope, with each ending there comes forth a new beginning.

               Letting go of certain types of endings is very difficult. Endings that can hurt our souls to the core, such as another Firefighter’s family. Some endings can seem most unfair and unwanted, some. And, some endings will never be seen by us as being “meant to be.” And truthfully, I would agree with that. Like violence; it is never “meant to be.” Any form of violence is never meant to be in God’s plan, unless it’s the end of violence altogether.

               We must remember that when God said “Let there be light,” the following six days brought forth the perfection of God’s creation through His divine imagination. It wasn’t until shortly after his prized creation, Adam, and then Eve while Adam was taking a siesta, that certain types of endings became difficult. The first broken relationship was between us and God; then Cain and Abel; Adam eating dirt all the days of his life because he ate from the disobedient tree, rather than eating forever the bread of angels. The pain of childbirth for women rather than the perfect birth of Jesus through Mary. Only a kidney stone can closely match the childbirth pain.

               We take responsibility, I hope, for turning a perfect creation into shambles through the horror of original sin. It’s through that bad choice of our first parents that all difficult endings, from brokenness to death, are upon us. But, it’s also through the saving grace and power of Jesus Christ that all difficult endings eventually find a new beginning.

               “There will not be left a stone upon another stone,” says Jesus: an image of destruction. “Many will come in my name saying, ‘I am he.’” False prophets who destroy and beat up the sheep. “When you hear of wars and insurrection.” Just look to the middle East, again and again. As well as other continents and cities. Wars and insurrection abound. “There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place.” Illness abounds. Even Mother Earth is ill, moving and bouncing these huge faults, such as San Andrea. But prior to all this unwanted violence, there’s the greater unwanted violence of being seized and persecuted, being handed over because of the sweet, innocent name of Jesus.

               All these endings that lead to a new beginning. With some of them we fight and do battle. Others are thrust upon us beyond our control. When did any mere human ever stop an earthquake, or raise someone from the dead? Earthquakes, famines, and death are beyond human power alone to stop.

               Most endings are not welcomed into our lives because of the confusion, hurt, and adversity they cause. We seek peaceful lives, lives where love and respect win the day. Where Christ is the center and all. Where his way of being in the world is fully revealed through us without having to judge others harshly.

               As we arrive toward the end of Luke’s Gospel in the 3rd year of the 3-year cycle of readings, our Lord’s message is twofold: dependency and justice. Dependency when times get tough. When difficult endings are seemingly upon us. Our Lord’s message – a very strong one – is to draw into his life, into his world deeper, and allow him to calm turbulent waves that seek to drown us in those times.

Please note that Jesus makes no attempt at stopping the earthquakes, famines, persecutions, death, human brokenness, and such. They are going to happen. The less the better. Love will always lessen the bitter endings. But dependency upon his life and all its meaning is our path to a new beginning.

               And as for God’s justice…. It’s never in the manner of getting even or revenge. Justice belongs to God the Creator. Divine justice does not seek to exact vengeance on his most prized creation, as much as we may like to think so. Divine justice will exact “vengeance,” if you will, on what caused all this brokenness in the first place. Divine justice will get even, not with us, but with our personal wars and persecutions through the power of Divine Mercy. Divine justice gets even with sin through the power of Jesus’ Cross. That’s how God gets even; through his mercy. How many new beginnings are realized in the joy of God’s forgiveness? And in ours too!

               The kind of justice the Lord will perpetrate on all creation will be to renew all the terrible endings into lasting peace. I can’t wait for the day to come when there is no more war in the land where the Prince of Peace walked, suffered, died and rose from the dead. I know I’ll be in heaven by then. But it will still be good.

                Jesus Christ is the firstborn of all creation. In him, we live and move and have our being. In him, all things were created in heaven and on earth. Except for all the bad stuff. But he’s going to place all the bad stuff in one holy hand, and transform it into all that is good.

               The biggest step toward this has been taken in the Resurrection of Jesus. This is the hope that will lead all difficult endings into new beginnings. To God be all the praise and glory. Amen.      

Homily 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C November 10, 2019

The one word life has two meanings.

               The first understanding of life is the present road we travel. A road that ends one day. We look, speak, and act in different manners, but we have in common the greatest of all gifts called life. This first life is lived within the walls and boundaries of space and time. If we ever feel restricted at certain times, like we’re being held back, that restriction is not the result of the 10 Commandments where God commands us what and what not to do. It’s not the result of Jesus commanding us to love enemies and pray for persecutors. In fact, if we do so, we experience more freedom.

               If there are times when we feel restricted or held back, there is no connection to God telling us what choices to make. What to do and what not to do. The truth of God is what sets us free, which contradicts the present cultural mindset that religion today is somehow restrictive, and that it holds us back from being all we can be. Rather, our faith holds us back from the slavery of sin. The feeling of restriction, where it exists, results from this present meaning of life being lived within the boundaries of space and time, and nothing more.

               This is what the Sadducees believe. That the word life has just one meaning. That life ends at death, so eat, drink, and be merry as much as humanly possible. We’ll still believe in God, which the Sadducees did. But they say that this is the one and only life that God created from the words “Let there be light.” If that’s the truth, then God’s light is not long-lasting. It’s like placing a 5-watt bulb placed into a streetlight 40 feet tall. There’s more darkness than light. And this is how the Sadducees approached life in the ancient time of Jesus.

               This first and only meaning of life for them brings forth this idiotic question of “Whose wife will this woman be? Which of the 7 brothers will she be married to in the resurrection, even though we don’t believe in a resurrection, therefore, we’re just going to make light of God’s light?” Of all the insane questions in Scripture, and there’s a few of them, this one could be on top of the list. “Whose wife will she be?”

               So, our primary understanding of this first meaning of life is that it will end. Even the Sadducees got that part correct.

               The second meaning of the word life is better understood by their denial. The refusal of the Sadducees to accept from God why this first life is so important to us. We look at our families, friends, your children and grandchildren, the beauty of God’s creation and nature and say, “We don’t ever want this to end. If this ends at the end of the first meaning of life, at death, then God had a really bad plan.” The worst plan, I would say.

               To say or believe there is no resurrection opens wide the door of this life to the option of slavery. Of living for oneself…because life is short and I need to get as much out of it as I can, no matter what the cost or who gets hurt along the way. “Get outta my way cause I’m doing whatever I want, commandments or no commandments, laws or no laws.” Is this freedom? Or is it slavery to the senses?

               What’s amazing about the Sadducees is that they were probably a group of decent human beings, despite testing the Master Teacher. Even though they believed the resurrection – the second meaning of life – not possible, that resurrection was not part of God’s saving plan, they did not run wild with their lives. They were religious-minded folks. They were God-fearing men. But they restricted themselves from accepting the truth that God’s plan for us goes far beyond the restrictions of this life. They couldn’t compete for the gold medal, because they didn’t believe there was a gold medal. They believed in a bronze medal eventually covered in six feet of dirt. They believed that was the best God could do. Or would do.

               The second meaning of life, based on the question “Whose wife will she be?”, Jesus gladly answers for us. The daily question for us in our Catholic faith is, “Do we live this first meaning of life according to the Sadducees insane question, or, do we live according to the Lord’s answer to them?”

               What is his answer? And is it satisfying enough for us to embrace the joys of the resurrection? Whose wife will she be is answered first, that marriage is not the defining relationship in heaven. Marriage is not the standard bearer of being with God in the resurrection. I’m sorry if that breaks your heart, but it shouldn’t. The dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. There are no Sacraments in heaven. Which is why Sacraments are for the living in this first meaning of life. Sacraments, including Matrimony, prepare us for the second meaning of life, being eternal.

               Instead of “Whose wife will this woman be?” Jesus answers the resurrection non-believers in a way that opens the door to what God has prepared for those who love him; “They can no longer die; they are children of God; they are the ones who will rise.”

               My dear friends, may we ever trust the words of Jesus in all he teaches, but most especially with regard to the second meaning of the word “Life.” It gives ultimate purpose and meaning to this first life, where restriction of space and time is real. This all leads to the second meaning of life, where freedom in Christ is eternal, even beyond the goodness of Holy Matrimony.