Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 10, 2019 – Year C
Readings: 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14 / Ps 17 / 2 Thes 2:16-3:5 / Lk 20:27-38
by Father Louis Benoit, Guest Celebrant
We’ve had two readings today of seven brothers, all of whom have passed away. The first reading from the Book of Maccabees is about the time when the Jewish people were being persecuted and tells of seven brothers who went to their death for what they believed, with the hope of resurrection and new life. And that is what today’s readings are all about: resurrection and new life.
The second story is a silly story made up by the Sadducees; they didn’t believe in the resurrection so they had made up this silly story to try to get Jesus to realize how ridiculous resurrection was. The Sadducees were the rigid people of the day. They only accepted the earlier writings of the Old Testament; the later writings, which dealt with the resurrection and new life, were not part of their beliefs. They were also the minority. The Pharisees, who did believe in the resurrection and new life, were the majority. And yet the Sadducees held to what they believed.
In dealing with the resurrection we are dealing with a mystery of faith. A mystery is something you can partly understand but never fully know or understand. As you go through life you can get deeper and deeper into a mystery. In dealing with God; God is beyond us limited people. He is a mystery we can never get to the bottom of, and we have to be open to this mystery, open to faith. We can never totally know or understand Him. We can get deeper and deeper into His mystery but can never totally know Him. And each of us is a mystery as well. We are a mystery of God’s presence and, being a mystery, we will never fully understand ourselves or each other.
It’s kind of interesting that women accept this more than men. Men have to figure things out. I remember hearing a comment from a man that I never heard from a woman: “I’ll never figure out that woman!” Of course being a mystery of God’s presence, he will never figure her out.
We live with mystery all around us. We have to understand that mystery isn’t something to be figured out but is something to be lived. We live in mystery and we hope to keep going; that is the way life is.
Of course the resurrection is a mystery of our faith; it is very important. We profess it in the creed when we say “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” We profess that every time we say that prayer. We know something about the resurrection but not everything. We believe that life continues after death, in heaven; that death does not end our life, only changes it. We believe that in heaven we will be reunited with our friends and loved ones, who have gone before, and we believe that we will be fully happy in union with God.
Also, we believe that in order to be fully happy in heaven we must rid ourselves of the things that would keep us from being fully happy. That gets into the topic of purgatory. Now purgatory is not a defined doctrine but it makes a lot of sense. When I was young I used to think of purgatory as kind of like hell except you got out. That is not exactly correct. We need to think of purgatory as a place where we can get rid of those things that will keep us from being perfectly happy in heaven with God. That means getting rid of things like fears, prejudices, insecurities; the things that will keep us from being happy. Negative self-image is another problem, and we have to look at our relationships; if we have always had a problem with a certain person, we can’t expect to be happy until we resolve that problem.
Another thing is that in death we leave behind space and time. This can be beyond our imagination, but it is part of the mystery of new life. It’s like us limited people dealing with an unlimited God; we can never fully understand, but we can delve deeper and deeper.
Since we are coming to the end of the Church year (we only have two more weeks) we need to think of these final things. However, for the most part, we don’t need to dwell on this. We should think of our present task which is to live the Christian life day-by-day. In living this life, we should be living in deeper union with God and one another. We should taste a little bit of heaven. In living this way – in practicing Christian charity – we prepare ourselves for heaven. A saint once said: “All the way to heaven is heaven.” That makes a lot of sense; we should be trying to reach a little bit of heaven every day.