Missing the Point!
One New Year's Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas. The amusing thing was the float represented an oil company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas (C. Neil Strait, Minister's Manuel, 1994, 315).
They had the entire resources of heaven at their disposals. They were entrusted with the oracles of God; however, in Luke chapter 20 the parade of Chief Priest, Elders and Sadducees come to a sudden halt when they cut themselves off from the resources of God who was now in Christ.****
Gospel Text : Luke 20:27-38
Michel de Verteuil
General Textual comments
The gospel passage for this Sunday is challenging for us who practice the lectio divina method of reading the Bible text in dialogue with personal experience. From the outset there are three problems we must deal with if the passage is to speak to our experience as it is intended to.
a) The general theme of the passage is resurrection from the dead, something we believe in faith but have not experienced. We must therefore take the same approach as we did with “salvation” in last week’s passage; we start with partial and temporary “resurrections” we have experienced and allow them to become glimpses of the final and complete resurrection at the end of time. “Dying” will then refer to times when our world – or that of others – collapsed, and “resurrection” to times when we (or they) experienced new life in the wake of failure.
b) The passage refers to the Leviticus law in Deutoronomy 25:5, which is based on an understanding of marriage that is very different from ours. We Christians don’t see marriage in those terms at all. Our meditation will have to be very creative therefore, and we will probably find it impossible to use the word “marry” in praying the passage.
c) Some of the sayings in the passage are vague: “children of this world,” “children of the resurrection,” “they are like the angels,” “sons of God,” “to him all are alive.” In each case we must let the Word come alive by interpreting it in the light of our experience.
Through meditation, then, we will be led
– to celebrate “children of the resurrection,” including ourselves when we are at our best (thanksgiving),
– repent of our lack of faith in the resurrection, as individuals and as a Church (humility),
– pray that faith in the resurrection will triumph in us, in the Church and in the world (petition).
The passage is in three sections.
1. Verse 27: Introduction
The introduction sets the scene – a meeting between Jesus and the Sadducees; we can identify with both.
a) Jesus is in a specific historical situation. He is in Jerusalem, knowing that he is about to be arrested and condemned by the leaders of his own people and abandoned by his closest associates, but still self-possessed and trusting. In this encounter with the Sadducees he is not merely teaching, but bearing witness to his own faith in the resurrection. He “leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection” (Hebrews 12:2). In our meditation we celebrate him and those who have been his presence for us, challenging us by word and example to renew our faith in the resurrection.
b) The Sadducees are ourselves to the extent that we “say that there is no resurrection,” not in words (since the resurrection is part of our Christian faith), but in practice. What this implies is explained below.
2. Verses 28 to 33: a case study
The Levitical law is far removed from our experience, so we have to be creative in interpreting it. Like all biblical laws, this was a life-giving Word of God. In the culture of the time, however, it reinforced the lowly status of women. Women at that time found their identity in having children. A woman who had no husband – and therefore no children – was nobody. Her inferior status is summed up in the Sadducees’ question “To which of them will she be wife?” which can be interpreted as “She has no husband, so who will she be?”
This approach is typical of people who “say there is no resurrection.” We fall into that category when we define people by their achievements – jobs, bank accounts, popularity, prestige, fame. We look scornfully at those who have none of these things – or lose them by “dying”. Like the Sadducees asking “To which of them will she be wife?” we ask the poor and vulnerable, those who are old or sickly or who have experienced failure, “Who are your friends? What have you produced?” Many still look on women as the Sadducees did; they ask, “Whose wife is she?”
In setting priorities for ourselves we “say there is no resurrection” when we get involved in projects not because they are good in themselves but because they bring us “outer’ benefits such as making money and attaining high positions, or “inner” benefits like feeling good about ourselves, feeling superior to others or having a sense of achievement.
The problem in each case is that we allow ourselves to be defined by these accomplishments. If we were to lose them (“die”), we would have to ask, “Who am I?”
We do this also as communities: the Church and its organizations and religious orders “say there is no resurrection” when they become fixated on achievements – attracting large numbers, attaining moral perfection, and so forth. Suppose we became “a little flock” again, we would be asking ourselves, “Are we really the Church?”
The capitalist system with its emphasis on productivity and consumption “says that there is no resurrection.” Nations too can seek their identity in military or economic victories, saying “What makes us a great nation is that we are No. 1.”
3. Verses 34 to 38: three wisdom sayings
Jesus answers the Sadducees’ – and our – question with three wisdom sayings intended to evoke the response, “How true!” and “How wonderful!”
a) Verses 34 to 36.
Jesus distinguishes between “children of this world” and “children of the resurrection” (there is a bit of both in each of us). “Children of this world” focus on achievements. “Taking wives and husbands” does not refer primarily to marriage (and not at all to Christian marriage). It means getting involved in projects in such a way that they define us. We do that when
– we sacrifice important values to attain high positions for ourselves and our families;
– we scheme and connive to prove ourselves better than others;
– we make “being perfect” the goal of our spiritual life so that when we fall into sin we become “nobodies”.
To the question “Whose wife will she be?” Jesus replies, “She was never just ‘somebody’s wife’; she was a person in her own right! So what if all her husbands died. She is still who she is.” This is the attitude of “children of the resurrection,” those who are “judged worthy of a place in the other world.”
Here again “they do not marry” does not refer to marriage as we understand it. It means, like Jesus himself, not allowing one’s identity to be determined by achievements. We can imagine Jesus saying to the Sadducees: “I too committed myself to many people (the leaders of the people, the Pharisees, Judas) and I have little to show for it. You think I am a failure, but I don’t see myself that way at all.” He told the apostles the same thing on the night before he died: “You will all run away, leaving me alone; but I am not alone because the Father is with me” (John 16:32).
We think of the great men and women of our time who give themselves to noble causes such as non-violence, harmony between religions, liberation of oppressed people, equality for women. Often they are not praised, are condemned even, but continue to live fulfilled and productive lives. They are “children of the resurrection,” they “cannot die,” they are “sons and daughters of God.”
We think too of “children of the resurrection” who give themselves to the service of others:
– parents who walk with children who are mentally challenged
– friends who continue to care for delinquents
– political leaders who renounce power rather than compromise principles.
They often do not see tangible results, their sacrifices seem useless and “die”. But they maintain their dignity, their sense of self worth, their sense of humour even – they “cannot die”. If we ask them, “Who are you?” they will answer like Jesus, “I am a son or daughter of God.” Like Jesus they teach us to understand what it means to be “the same as the angels.”
b) Verses 37 and 38a
Jesus further clarifies his teaching on resurrection by inviting the Sadducees (and us) to enter into Moses’ experience in “the passage about the bush”. This refers to moments when we sense the greatness of people who have touched our lives (“ancestors” in the widest sense). They died, failed, or did not receive due recognition but continued to “live”. They could do this because they were “alive to God.” We may be dead in the eyes of our fellow human beings, but if we are true to the best of ourselves, we are alive in the eyes of God. The passage reminds us that faith in God is what gives us human beings the power to transcend failure and humiliation.
c) Verse 38b widens the scope of the teaching. Not merely our “ancestors” (in the wide sense as above) but all men and women have within them the seed of immortality, the potential to be truly great, “alive to God.”
We celebrate moments when some “Jesus” helped us – by word and example – to understand these things.
“This great disaster is a symbol to us to remember all the big things of life and forget the small things of which we have thought too much.” …Jawaharlal Nehru, speaking to the Indian people on the night Gandhi was assassinated
Lord, we worry so much about what will happen to what we have worked for:
– will our children put into practice what we have taught them?
– will the community project we started survive?
– will we remain in good health?
– will our political party win at the polls?
We are like the Sadducees who say there is no resurrection.
But now and then you send us Jesus
to remind us that the only really important thing in life
is to be judged worthy in your sight,
and then we are truly children of the resurrection and we cannot die.
“Raise me up Lord, until at long last it becomes possible for me in perfect chastity to embrace the universe.“ …Teilhard de Chardin
Lord, free us from petty concerns,
that the whole world may be alive to us as it is to you.
“The fulfillment of our destiny is to find in God all our individual and personal reality.“
Lord, forgive us for accepting the notion that we fail as human beings
when we are not productive:
– we make parents feel inferior because they have no children,
or because their children are not successful at school or in the work place;
– we are envious of fellow professionals who have attained greater heights than us;
– we do not give full respect to the aged in our communities;
– we lose enthusiasm for what we are doing
because our worth is not recognized by others.
We are Sadducees who say there is no resurrection.
Give us the grace to approach Jesus and receive his word
challenging us to move from being children of this world
to becoming children of the resurrection, your sons and daughters.
“Is it worth it? Everything in life is worth it if the heart is not small.” …Leonardo Boff
Lord, we thank you for faithful people,
– those who remain faithful when their spouses are not;
– parishioners who are content to work for the community without acknowledgement;
– those who fight for a noble cause without success.
They often die childless,
but we know you judge them worthy of a place with you in the resurrection from the dead.
Lord, we thank you that, like Moses, we can call you the God of our ancestors,
from Africa, India, Europe or the Caribbean.
Many of them didn’t have our faith,
things we hold dear were not important to them,
but they are alive to us, because they believed in you
and you are not the God of the dead but of the living.
“Human beings ought not to consider their chances of living or dying.
They ought only to consider on any given occasion whether they are doingright or wrong.” ..Socrates
We thank you, Lord, for sending us in every age men and women like Jesus,
who challenge us to be children of the resurrection,
to know that we cannot die once we are concerned to be alive to you.
“To the conquistadors, where there were no wonders there was nothing.” …V.S. Naipaul
Lord, we your Church ask your forgiveness
for the times we judged cultures by their wealth and military might,
forgetting that to you they were alive – your sons and daughters.
“The Church admits that she has greatly profited and still profits from the antagonisms of those who oppose her.” …Vatican II document on the Church in the Modern World
Lord, we thank you for people who come to us as the Sadducees came to Jesus.
At first their objections seem foolish,
but then we find that they help us clarify what we believe in.
Introduction to the Celebration
We gather here on Sundays because this is the ‘day of the resurrection’. We call ourselves the people of the resurrection and of new life. We proclaim the mystery of faith: ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen.’ But we often do not stop and think about what we mean by ‘resurrection’ and ‘rising from the dead’. These questions will echo through our celebration today.
This gospel section is found in all three synoptics, but the version in Luke is by far the most rounded and coherent. The situation is a dispute with those for whom the notion of ‘resurrection’ was ludicrous, and as such the object of curious questions. But Jesus refuses to get involved in such a materialistic imagining of God’s plan as their questions suggest, and rather asserts that God is the God of the living for all have life in him. This controversy, in turn, became for the church a commentary on its own faith in the resurrection as that which Jesus shares with his disciples.
Since this section of Luke’s gospel has a natural termination at 20:40, it is a pity that the last two verses have been omitted in the lection for today.
1. We bandy the word ‘resurrection’ about with gusto. No celebration of the Eucharist is complete without some use of the word, while we cheerfully say that ‘we shall rise with Christ,’ or use similar expressions with the ease that we use a phrase like ‘I’m popping out to the shops for some milk.’ The assumption is that the meaning of ‘resurrection’ is immediately obvious. Yet this is the exact opposite of the case.
2. First, the notion of resurrection is, in popular contexts, very often thought of as little more that some sort of resuscitation (a corpse being brought back to life), or that it is no more than a verbal variant on the quite widespread belief in the immortality of the soul as a natural quality of human (or indeed animal) existence, or indeed some even think it is just another term for some vague post mortem existence (e.g. ‘There is something beyond the grave’) or otherworldly place (e.g. the media expert who says ‘What the Vikings called Valhalla was called Heaven by the Christians who converted them’). These confusions are ‘where people are at’ and today’s gospel provides an opportunity to address them.
3. Second, the term ‘resurrection’ (literally ‘standing up again’) is itself but a label for a mystery that is beyond us but which we glimpse in our experience of the presence of the Christ still with us, but also in the glory of the Father. The ‘resurrection’ is not some miracle to be either proved or disproved as ‘having happened’ in the historical order, rather it is the attempt in our human, earth bound language to give expression to our conviction, shared with the very first disciples, that Jesus’s presence did not end on the cross, but continued in a new way within the creation, and that he showed this new way of being, this new existence at the ‘ right hand of the Father,’ was also the destiny of all who became one with him. Resurrection is about both now and the future, and it is about transformation both now and in the future. But this transformation in Christ is only glimpsed in this life in shadows and images; perhaps the greatest of these shadows that expresses this transformation is the ritual of baptism, while one of the simplest is the word ‘resurrection’.
4. But because resurrection is a mystery, it is, of its very nature, very difficult to preach or communicate verbally. By far the best positive preaching of resurrection takes the form of our great actions of faith: baptism, the movement from darkness to light at vigil services, or in the presentation of the Eucharist as the encounter with the risen One now in his meal. Yet we cannot remain silent for we are also creatures of language and words, and words can clarify and refine our understandings and open up the mind to the realities beyond words. So what can we say in a few moments about resurrection?
5. One method is to use a series of simple statements in the form of ‘not that, but this’. Here are four such statements that may clarify key aspects of Christian belief from some of the counterfeits found in contemporary popular culture:
A. Resurrection is communal, not individual.
We become the new People of God, the emphasis is not on my escape from the grave.
B. Resurrection is transformation, not resuscitation.
We can so easily get lost in materialist questions about empty tombs and miracles, but this is to see resurrection as one more event in the historical order, rather than the beginning of a new possibility of existence in God whose nature and form are beyond our imaginings.
C. Resurrection is life in God, not ‘spiritual’ endurance.
Our focus of interest is not on some’ soul’ that might survive death, or some ‘place of the dead’ in an ‘ otherworld’ or’ afterlife’ – all of which are very commonly held religious beliefs but that we become part of the Body of Christ sharing in the life of God.
D. Resurrection is God’s gift, not some quality of the immortality of the soul.
In any average congregation there will be some people who are interested in the ‘paranormal’, in so-called ‘near death experiences,’ or in practices that claim to speak to the dead. Such people often simply assume that the abilities they claim are justified by the Christian belief in resurrection. But such claims for an existence after death – while not contradictory of the belief in resurrection – are wholly distinct from it. The new life is God’s gift in Jesus Christ – we share in his resurrection – not simply an individual human life force having its own continued existence.
There is no doubt that people have all kinds of questions about heaven and what it will be like. In today’s gospel that issue is touched upon when Jesus is asked a very specific question about heaven. The key to understanding this incident is to realise that the Sadducees, who put the question to Jesus, do not believe in an afterlife at all. They represent a small branch of Judaism that was dominated by the Temple priests. Unlike the Pharisees they rejected the idea of an afterlife and the resurrection of the dead. So they think that by posing the right question to Jesus they can show that these are foolish ideas. Jesus, in answering them, does not tell us anything about heaven as such, he simply shows that their reasoning is false because they have too narrow an idea of God. Thinking about heaven requires more than simply transferring what goes on down here to some heavenly sphere. Heaven is about union with God, life in its fullness, so whatever idea we have of it, it will still come up short.
For many people it comes as a surprise to know that the idea of martyrdom, i.e. dying for one’s faith, is absent in most of the Old Testament. For a long period in Biblical history when there was no belief in an afterlife, to have to die for one’s faith was considered as evidence that God had failed you. Today’s readings show that belief in the resurrection radically changed the way people looked at life. It gave them a new hope that enabled them to live through dreadful hardships and persecutions. For the early church, faith in the resurrection of Jesus was the cornerstone of all their preaching and it was this that allowed a message of indestructible hope to reach many whose lives were filled with despair. As we move towards the end of the liturgical year, the readings invite us to think about the end. This is not an invitation to worry or be perplexed about what we don’t know — it is rather an invitation to hope and have confidence in God’s will for us.
Donal Neary SJBig question of what it will all be like? Jesus gives no details. We live in hope and die in hope. We are to be alive forever in the love of God. God keeps love safe. When life ceases, love stays.
A New Brealthrough
A New Brealthrough
God is God of life, the Gospel says; To him all are alive/ even the dead,
God breaks into life in a new way at our death. It happens in small ways every time we are transformed a bit – when we forgive, make peace, really help another, when we promise ourselves to someone or some cause, we are in resurrectionmode. But the final one is a gift unlike any earthly gift.
We need to share this hope with each other. The peace you may have felt at the death of someone, the dream where the loved one was happy, the thanks you feel for another for ever – all brings hope even if their death is sudden or self inflicted or at a young age. As we place our candle at the altar for our loved ones in November, we are letting them go off into what death really is – our finding our way to the arms of God.
Words of Pope Francis – “Hope is not looking at a half-full glass, which is simply optimism, which is a human attitude that depends on many things. Hope is a gift of Jesus, of His very self, His very name is hope. It is Christ in you, the hope for glory/
This is the eternal hope, which is the root of our joy even in the losses of our lives.
Lord, give us this day a renewal of faith in eternal life.
From the Connections:
THE WORD:The Sadducees, the priests and governing class of Judaism at the time of Jesus, were very conservative in matters of religion. Unlike the Pharisees, they dismissed the oral tradition and any doctrinal developments not specified in the Pentateuch. They put no credence in the thousands of detailed regulations and ritualistic practices that the Pharisees embraced. They rejected the notion of angels or spirits, the belief in an afterlife and the idea of a messiah.
The hypothetical case that the Sadducees concoct based on Moses’ teaching on marriage and pose to Jesus in today’s Gospel is designed to ridicule the so-called “Messiah’s” ludicrous teaching on the resurrection. Jesus, first, dismisses their attempt to understand the reign of God in human, worldly terms: the life of God transcends our understanding of human relationships and values. And second, citing the Sadducees’ own cherished Mosaic writings, Jesus reminds them that God spoke to Moses of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the present tense, as still being alive before him and not as long-dead memories. God is not the God of the dead but the God of the living; Christ comes with the promise of always living in God and with God.
HOMILY POINTS:Our God is a not a God of condemnation and retribution not does God call us to condemn or seek vengeance – our God is a God of love that redeems and transforms; and God calls us to love in the same way.
We often try to gauge God by our standards, to measure him by our yardsticks, to define God by our systems of reasoning and understanding. But the God revealed by Jesus defies our explanations and designs. Our response to Jesus' call to be his disciples begins with opening our minds and spirits to become what God intends us to be.
To become “sons and daughters of the resurrection” we must embrace that Gospel vision of love of neighbor as brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us children of God.
Resurrection is the promise and hope of our faith as Christians – but resurrection is also an attitude, a perspective for approaching life and sorting out the decisions and complexities of our lives. In dying to our own worst impulses, disappointments, and the sometimes-overwhelming sense of hopelessness, we can rise to the heights of the life and love of God.
Realizing the possibilitiesWith their growing family, they need a new house. And so they begin the long, cumbersome process of putting their house on the market while looking for their “dream home.” One spouse is overwhelmed by the whole process of selling their house and buying a new one: What if they can’t find a house they like? What if they can’t sell theirs? What if they end up having to juggle two mortgages for an extended period of time? What if one spouse loses his or her job and throws the entire family finances out of whack? What if their new house has problems “inside the walls” that make the place a money pit?
But the other spouse, while not unaware of what lies ahead, sees a better future for their family in a new home. There are risks and hard work, to be sure, but the second spouse approaches it all with excitement at the possibilities. One spouse struggles over a house; the other seeks to make a home.
He can no longer live alone. It’s been a struggle for him and for his children, who do everything they can to help him. So he finally agrees to move into an assisted-living facility.
He begins packing away his life and giving away what were once the most important things he possessed. But his sadness is slowly transformed into acceptance and eventually happiness when he sees that what he gives away is welcomed and cherished by his family and friends; many household items and clothes will be used by a local charity to help the needy and poor; and the estate sale realizes enough money to enable him to help his grandchildren.
And when he moves into the facility, his new neighbors welcome him and immediately make him a part of the community. And his family makes sure he is still a part of their lives.
She nervously makes her way into the lab. It’s the first day of her college career and this is the first meeting of her advanced chemistry class. She hopes to major in chemical engineering. She had done well in her honors science courses, but that was high school. What if she can’t keep up? What if she’s not cut out for this? What if her first answer is wrong and she’s immediately labeled a loser by the prof?
She finds a seat. She is shaking. The professor enters and begins with a demonstration. She is fascinated by the chemical reaction he has created. She takes in the lecture like a sponge. Her fears quickly disappear. Her dream of a career in chemistry is about to be realized.
We all fear the unknown; change that we cannot control or anticipate terrifies us. But our belief in the “living God” is centered in the constant hope of his presence in every moment of our lives; our belief in the resurrection is founded on the unshakable certainty that every Good Friday can be transformed into an Easter morning of purpose and fulfillment. The Sadducees cannot grasp such possibilities; they are so bogged down by what they see that they cannot imagine the possibilities of what they cannot see: compassion, forgiveness, healing. They do not understand that God is not about endings but beginnings: God always calls us to start again, to put aside old behaviors and wants and embrace all that is good and affirming about the time we have been given, to live on in the hope that the struggles we encounter in this life are but a prelude to the fullness of joy in the next.
From Fr. Jude Botelho:
The context of today’s first reading is the persecution by King Antiochus of the Jews because of their fidelity to their religion. In the past, the abstention from eating pork characterized one of the religious practices of the Jews. They were persecuted and forced to eat pork in public. In today’s reading we see the powerful witness that a family gives as they prefer to die rather than go against their faith. The motto of the religious Jew was: Death rather than going against God’s precepts and commandments. Their brave mother consoles and encourages her seven sons to go to their death rather than betray God. This is one of the first expressions in the Old Testament of belief in the personal resurrection.
Over the triple doorway of the Cathedral of Milan are some carvings. One is a beautiful wreath of roses and underneath are these words: “All that pleases is just for a moment.” Over another is a cross and underneath: “All that troubles is just for a moment.” But over the great central archway leading to the main aisle is the inscription: “That only is important which is eternal.”
Cuthbert Johnson in ‘Quotes and Anecdotes’
In today’s gospel Jesus is approached by some Sadducees who question him about the resurrection. Like so many of us, the Sadducees clung to their own way of thinking which led them to be religiously conservative, opposing any doctrine that did not fit into their way of thinking and living. They believed only in the present life, they enjoyed the present without any worry or concern about the afterlife and hence they questioned the resurrection. In today’s gospel they pose a tricky rabbinical question to Jesus to catch him. They attempt to ridicule the resurrection of the dead by recalling the Mosaic Law on levirate marriage, which stated that if a man dies and has no son, and therefore no legal heir, his brother must marry the widow. In this way the continuity of the family would be guaranteed. The Sadducees develop their example to absurdity in instancing seven brothers each of whom marry the same woman, but each of whom die childless. Jesus in his response elevates the discussion to give a deeper understanding of the resurrected life. Firstly, he said we should not look at the afterlife from our human and limited perspective. Life there is quite different. Secondly, since the Sadducees held only to the Law of Moses, Jesus returned to that citing the remarkable incident of Moses encountering God in the burning bush where he identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When Moses heard from God, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were long dead, yet God said “I am the God of these three patriarchs” not “I was” but “I am!” their God. So Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still lived! So the creative power of God brings about life after death! The Sadducees became silent. Jesus had showed them that God was the God of life, and God of the living, and those who believe live forever.
God of the living
An old man, an accomplished artist, was applying the finishing touches to a bronze sculpture. He kept filing and polishing every scraping little surface of his masterpiece. “When will it be done?” asked an observer. “Never” came the reply. “I just keep working and working until they come and take it away.” So also is life. It is a pilgrimage; it is an ongoing process. Life is blessed when lived well; it is a gift to be used every day. For what makes life precious and worth living is not years we live but the deeds we do. All our dear departed ones are in the hands of God, they are living persons: living with God.
Antony Kolencherry in ‘Living the Word’
Film –The Day After
When the movie The Day After was shown on television in 1983, it caused quite a controversy. This was because it was focused on the ultimate what if- the event of a global nuclear war. What if the population of Kansas City is instantly reduced to vaporized silhouettes; what if the blistered wounded are doomed to die; what if some survivors are surrounded by radioactive fallout that settles like a fine white dust all over the earth? The Day After was intended primarily to provoke serious reflection and discussion about nuclear disarmament. But it also provokes questions about our faith. Would a good God allow such a terrifying evil to happen? Why do we have to die at all? Is there really a resurrection? –Today’s readings suggest some answers to these questions not in the sense of complete explanations, but in the sense of strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of the Living God. We don’t get a satisfying answer from the Scriptures to the question, “How can a good God allow such terrible evils like the slaughter of the seven sons of the Maccabees family? Or the death of innocent people in terrorist attacks? But we do get an affirmation of our faith in an afterlife. No matter how terrifying death may be, whether at the hands of terrorists or nuclear weapons, life will be restored. No matter how much destruction a nuclear holocaust may cause, the day after will never be the last day. A new heaven and a new earth will appear because our God is a God of the living and not of the dead. With Christian faith and hope we are strong enough to survive any today, and, if need be, any day after.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
Courage in the face of death
There are two kinds of courage. The first is loud angry and assertive. This is associated with the battlefield. The second is quiet, serene and unassertive. Even so, it is unflinching and impervious to blandishments and threats. We see a heroic example of the second kind of courage in the First Reading. But there are some examples closer to our own times. The following happened in a Jewish ghetto in Eastern Europe during the Second World War. The German authorities appointed a man by the name of Ephraim to the post of president of the Jewish Council. One day they asked Ephraim to submit a list to them of 30 people for slave labour. Ephraim went away and thought about it. Eventually he came back and presented a list to the German authorities. When they examined the list, instead of finding 30 names, they found one name written 30 times. That one name was Ephraim’s own. Ephraim knew that in doing what he did he was signing his own death warrant. Yet he refused to betray one of his brothers or sisters. Before courage like this, one feels poor.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’
A Shining Witness
Shahbaz Bhatti was born to Catholic parents in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. His father was an army officer and then became a teacher like his mother. The couple had six children, five boys and one girl. His father, who died after a protracted illness, was the main source of strength for Shahbaz. In 2002 Shahbaz formed the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance and became its first leader. He also joined Benazir Bhutto’s Party and such was the respect in which he was held that he was appointed Minorities Minister that same year. In his acceptance speech he said he was accepting it ‘to help the oppressed, down-trodden and marginalized, and to send a message of hope to the people living a life of disappointment, disillusionment and despair’. He went on, ‘Jesus is the nucleus of my life and I want to be his true follower through my actions by sharing the love of God with poor, needy and suffering people.’ And he was as good as his word. Christians make up only 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s 185 million people. He decided to campaign against the country’s draconian blasphemy law, knowing that in all probability it would cost him his life. It was his defence of one woman in particular, Mrs. Bibi, that sealed his death warrant. Mrs. Bibi was falsely accused of insulting Mohammed, and was sentenced to death by hanging. Bhatti’s support for Mrs. Bibi was the last straw for his enemies. After a visit to his elderly mother, his body was riddled with bullets in Islamabad on March 2, 2011. He was only 42. Later a video he had made in view of such an eventuality was released. In it he said, ‘I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to protect their rights. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.’ Everybody loves life. Bhatti loved life too, but he did not cling to it at all costs. For him the real life was eternal life. Faith in eternal life enabled him to sacrifice his life for Christ.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’
1. Worshiping at our own altars
A writer had a dream in which she visited hell.
To her surprise, this hell had no infinite fire or bottomless burning chasms of tormented souls. It was not like the hell she had pictured at all -- in fact, it was rather “church-like.” She was led through a labyrinth of dark, dank passages lined with the doors to many cells. Each cell she passed was identical. The central piece of furniture in each cell was an altar and before each altar knelt a sickly, weak, greenish-gray, ghostly figure in intense prayer and adoration.
“But whom are they worshipping?” the visitor asked her guide.
“Themselves,” was the reply. “This is pure self-worship. In their worship of their own beings, in placing their hopes and dependence on themselves and their own dreams alone, they are feeding on themselves and exhausting their own spirits. That is why they look so sickly and emaciated.”
The writer was appalled and saddened by row upon row of cells, small prisons for their pathetic, isolated inmates, who were doomed to spend eternity in solitary confinement, themselves their first, last and only object of worship.
[Adapted from Who Walk Alone by Margaret Evening.]
God, as revealed by Christ, is not the vengeful Judge or cosmic Tyrant who takes cruel delight in our failures; the God taught by Jesus in the Gospel is the God of life, a God whose limitless love put us and all of creation in motion. God will love us for all eternity -- but there always exists the possibility that we will refuse that love. That refusal to accept love, the refusal to respond to it, is precisely the meaning of hell. Hell is not a place where God puts us – it’s a place where we put ourselves. But to become “children of the God of life” is to dismantle the hells we create and set in their places the justice, peace and forgiveness that are the building stones of the kingdom of God. (From Connections)
**************2. Andrew Greeley:
In this story Jesus is not describing the specifics of the relationships of the genders in heaven. Attempts to elaborate a theory of how the human body behaves in heaven out of this story miss the point completely. Rather the story is about how Jesus dealt with the logic choppers and the legalists who tried to trap him by playing games with the scriptures. While Jesus won the argument, clearly he did not permanently dispose of those who use the bible to impose there rigid ideas on everyone else.
While some of the Fundamentalists are especially likely to do this (not all of them by any means) we are not above quoting bits of the bible or of papal documents out of context to force people to agree with us. The story today should serve as warning that Jesus doesn’t like that kind of argumentation, especially because it almost always ignores the principle them of his message, that we are all God’s beloved children.
Once upon a time there were some parents who were upset about the soft drink machines in the high school to which their children went. Pop (or soda if you’re from a part of the country where they use that odd term) was not good for kids. It kept them from drinking things like (low fat) milk and fruit juices which were good for them. They demanded that the high school take the machines out of the school. The next thing, one of the juniors said, is that they’re going to try to take pop corn out of movie theaters. He was joking, but that was really the next item on the parents agenda.
They had closed down stores with dirty magazines, they had banned cigarette smoking in the school, now they wanted to get rid of the soft drink machines. They were determined that everyone in the school would lead healthy, wholesome lives, all the time. They’ll go after rock music next, a freshman girl protested, you just wait. The kids argued that they needed a little caffeine each day to keep going, indeed a lot of caffeine. We’ll make them put in a tea machine, said one of the parents. That’s all you need for a quick pick-me-up. Don’t they have anything else to do but ruin our lives, the president of the sophomore class complained.
So the old retired pastor, the Monsignor who had founded the school, was called in to arbitrate the matter. He suggested that the parents do volunteer work in the inner city with their kids. The parents really didn’t want to do that. So, as a compromise, he said that there should be an ice tea machine and a (low fat) milk machine and a fruit juice machine as well as the pop machine. Individual parents could tell their children what to drink and what not to drink. The parents who tried to ban the pop machine were furious. They didn’t like democracy very much. Just to show them all the kids went ape over ice tea.
*************Someone has figured that if we put all of the materials in the Gospels that tell us about the life of Jesus together that it would equal about 80 pages. Yet, most of that would represent duplication, for we know that some of the Gospel writers copied from others. If, therefore you eliminate the duplication, you would have only 20 pages that tell us about Jesus life and teachings. Of those 20 pages, 13 of them deal specifically with the last week of his life. And if you separate it still further, you will discover that one-third of those 13 pages took place on Tuesday of Holy Week. Thus, in terms of sheer volume, we know far more on this day in his life than any other day. The events of that day represent a significant percentage of what we know about the man Jesus.
We know that Jesus spent Monday evening in Bethany, probably in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, since that is where he spent Sunday evening. He arose early on Tuesday morning and he and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. If you will then let your mind drift back through the pages of history, let us assume for a moment that you are living in First Century Palestine. It is the Season of the Passover and you and your family are among the thousands of religious pilgrims who have migrated to the ancient walled city of Jerusalem to participate in the religious celebration. You were there on Monday when Jesus took whip in hand and radically ran the moneychangers from the temple. It had been an eventful day.
But now it is Monday and it has come time to retire with your family. As you walk down the Villa de la Rosa you pass by the palace of the high priest, the residence of Caiaphas. You notice that a light is burning in the upper floor of this exquisite mansion. You comment to your family that Caiaphas must be working long hours to see that all of the religious festivities go on as scheduled. Yet, if you only knew what was really going on in that palace that evening. If you only knew what was taking place in that smoke filled room...
The ultimate insult kids dish out today is to look down their noses and snort, "Poser!" A "poser" is a "wannabe" who will "never-be."
A "biker poser" wears a leather jacket, biker boots and drinks coffee from a Harley-Davidson mug, but has never ridden anything more powerful than a John Deere on a Saturday afternoon.
A "rocker-poser" has the tough, trashy tattoos, the black T-shirts, but doesn't know the difference between a fret and being fretful.
A "nerd poser" can talk a "geek streak," has high scores on video games, but can't write a single line of computer code.
In short, a "poser" talks the talk, but doesn't "walk the walk."
In the infancy of Christianity, those first generations of disciples, those first followers of the person of Jesus, engaged in dozens of fierce theological arguments over the basics of Christian faith. One of the most repeated and seemingly reasonable arguments was the assertion made by various groups that the resurrection was "real" yet "not real." The gist of all these various claims was that Jesus' appearance on earth, his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, did truly occur. But that Jesus himself only "appeared" to be human during all these events. In reality, from his "birth" through his "death," Jesus was wholly and fully divine. Jesus, in other words, was never truly human in any essential sense. Jesus was a poser...
_____________________3. Humans Are Not Meant For Hibernation
The poet T. S. Eliot in his famous poem "The Wasteland," calls April the "cruelest month," because the showers of April stir up the dull and dormant roots of trees and flowers to begin bursting forth with new life instead of allowing them to remain comfortably asleep in the frozen ground of winter. Yet the sleep of tree roots and flower bulbs is the sleep of hibernation, not of rest. Trees were meant to put out green leaves; tulips were meant to push up through the soil and produce beautiful blossoms. Human beings are also meant to grow, to mature, to blossom, not to hibernate in the frozen sleep of habit or tradition or familiarity. Paul says that we were meant to grow until "we attain to the full height of the stature of Christ."
Larry R. Kalajainen, Extraordinary Faith for Ordinary Time, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
_________________4. The Main Thing
A few years back I was asked to write a meditation for the back of one of our Sunday bulletin covers, and I was excited about the prospect until I took a closer look at the assigned text. It was today's text, whose message I continue to find difficult to distill into a few short paragraphs. But in the weeks prior I had come across one of Yogi Berra's picturesque sayings. Berra, you may remember, was the New York Yankees catcher back in the 1950's and '60's who in his own garbled way said some profound things, once asserting that "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
In effect, is this not what Jesus is saying to his critics? In the life of faith, keep focused on the main thing. And what is the main thing, but to maintain and nurture our rootedness in God, to embrace life in God's kingdom, a life of compassion and grace, of peace and self-giving love, of servanthood and hope. When Jesus speaks of the God of the living, he is prodding his critics to expand their vision. In effect, says William Willimon, Jesus is saying to that group of critical Sadducees, "Your questions betray your limited point of view, your narrow frame of reference. The resurrection is not just some extension of your world. It is a whole new world, the world as God intended the world to be." It is a world in which the woman of your story is "a child of God, not a piece of property." It is a world in which each of us lives as children of the resurrection.
Joel D. Kline, Life in the Real World
___________________________________5. What's the Right Side Like?
A little girl and her father were walking on a clear, starry night. She turned to him and asked, "If the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what will the right side be like?"
When it comes to answering that question, we'll just have to leave it up to God, won't we?
Randy L. Hyde, Seven Weddings and a Funeral
___________________________________6. A Theological Curveball
A certain minister has made it a policy for many years to refer "six-year-old theology questions" to his wife. Since she has taught very young children for many years, he says, she has a much better grasp than he does of how to address the questions which little kids ask.
The other day, a first-grader brought a drawing of a skeleton into class where she teaches English as a second language. The titled across the top of the drawing read "Inside of Me." It was designed to teach children that everyone has a skeleton inside of them. He unfolded it proudly and showed it to the class. One little girl from India was astounded at the thought that she and others had this scary-looking skeleton inside them, and so she pressed the issue a bit farther. "Even you got one of these inside you, Mrs. K?" The teacher replied, "Yes, I have one, too."
The next question was the theological one. "Even God got one inside him?" Now in a class made up of children from many different countries, cultures, and religious backgrounds (most of them not Christians), you can imagine that this question had the potential for major theological debate. I doubt if I'd have had the presence of mind to give the answer the teacher did; but, as usual, her expertise in six-year-old theology saved the day. "If God needs a skeleton, I'm sure he has one," she replied. "God has everything he needs." This apparently satisfied the theological curiosity of the class, and they got on with the lesson.
Asking questions is an essential part of learning. If we don't know something, we look for someone who does and we ask. The only dumb question is the one you don't ask. We learn by asking questions about what we don't know.
Larry R. Kalajainen, Extraordinary Faith for Ordinary Time, CSS Publishing Company_________________________
With tongue in cheek, Mark Twain spoke of the two-faced life we all live: I am constructed like everybody else and enjoy a compliment as well as any other fool, but I do like to have the other side presented. And there is another side. I have a wicked side. Estimable friends who know all about it would tell you and take a certain delight in telling you things that I have done and things further that I have not repented. The real life that I live, and the real life that I suppose all of you live, is a life of interior sin. That is what makes life valuable and pleasant. To lead a life of undiscovered sin! That is true joy.
Mark Twain in a speech to the Society of American Authors, November 15, 1900_________________
8. Who's Stupid Now?
There is an Italian legend about a master and servant.
It seems the servant was not very smart and the master used to get very exasperated with him. Finally, one day, in a fit of temper, the master said: "You really are the stupidest man I know. Here, I want you to carry this staff wherever you go. And if you ever meet a person stupider than yourself, give them this staff."
So time went by, and often in the marketplace the servant would encounter some pretty stupid people, but he never found someone appropriate for the staff. Years later, he returned to his master's home. He was shown into his master's bedroom, for the man was quite sick and in bed. In the course of their conversation the master said: "I'm going on a journey soon."
"When will you return?", asked the servant.
"This is a journey from which I will not return." the master replied,
The servant asked: "Have you made all the necessary arrangements?"
"No, I guess I have not."
"This is a journey from which I will not return." the master replied,
The servant asked: "Have you made all the necessary arrangements?"
"No, I guess I have not."
"Well, could you have made all the arrangements?"
"Oh yes, I guess I've had time. I've had all my life. But I've been busy with other things.
The servant said: "Let me be sure about this. You're going on a journey, from which you will never return, and you've had all your life to make the arrangements, but you haven't."
The master said: "Yes, I guess that's right."
The servant replied: "Master, take this staff. For at last I have truly found a man stupider than myself."
From The Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil:
"Oh yes, I guess I've had time. I've had all my life. But I've been busy with other things.
The servant said: "Let me be sure about this. You're going on a journey, from which you will never return, and you've had all your life to make the arrangements, but you haven't."
The master said: "Yes, I guess that's right."
The servant replied: "Master, take this staff. For at last I have truly found a man stupider than myself."
From The Collection of Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1: Resurrection of the dead: The film Amadeus ends showing the funeral of the great musician Mozart.
(https://youtu.be/vCY4ryE9uF) He died at the age of 35. A genius as a composer, he never re-copied his compositions. He never had to make corrections, so the first draft was also the final copy. A child prodigy, he started playing several instruments at the age of four, wrote several symphonies by the age of eight and created at least 528 musical compositions before he died at age 35. He was a genius, whom one authority calls “one of the brightest stars in the musical firmament.” What a waste, that he should have died so young! It makes you wonder: is this life all there is? Imagine a beloved spouse, a darling parent or grandparent, a close friend, lying cold in the coffin. Is this life all there is? We try to comfort ourselves with the doctrine of the resurrection. We say: the genius of people like Mozart is not going to be wasted. The love of dear ones – the squeeze of their hands and the music in their voices – that love will be enjoyed in even greater intensity. A Sadducee in Jesus’ time might say, “I don’t believe it; the doctrine is absurd.” That was the point the Sadducees wanted to make by
challenging Jesus in today’s Gospel, with an absurd story of a woman who married seven husbands.
2: Sign of the cross by Brezhnev’s wife: As Vice-President, George H. W. Bush represented the U.S. at the 1982 funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev who had been the president of the USSR for 18 years. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow, Mrs. Natalia. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: she reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband. [Gary Thomas, Christian Times (October 3, 1994), p. 26.] Today’s Gospel is Jesus’ teaching on the resurrection of the dead. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWiYmWgJLq4) (Gary Thomas, Christian Times, October 3, 1994, p. 26.)
3: The epitaph of Benjamin Franklin: In one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin (one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States: author, politicaltheorist, politician, printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, and diplomat), penned his own epitaph. It seems he must have been influenced by Paul’s teaching on the resurrection of the body. Here’s what he wrote: The Body of B. Franklin, the former printer lies here, food for worms, like the cover of an old book: its contents torn out, and stripped of its lettering and gilding. But the work shall not be wholly lost: for it will, as he believed, appear once more in a new & more perfect edition, corrected and amended by its Author. (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/franklin-epitaph.html ).
4. An elderly priest of our diocese was asked, “Do you believe in purgatory?” He answered, “Not only do I believe in purgatory, I’m counting on it!”
5. Sign boards found on church property. A singing group called “The Resurrection” was scheduled to sing at a church. When a big snowstorm postponed the performance, the pastor fixed the outside sign to read, “The Resurrection is postponed.”
6. When is the Resurrection? A very zealous, soul-winning young preacher came upon a farmer working in his field. Being concerned about the farmer’s soul the preacher asked the man, “Are you laboring in the vineyard of the Lord, my good man?” Not even looking at the preacher and continuing his work the farmer replied, “Naw, these are soybeans.” The young, determined preacher tried again asking the farmer, “Are you prepared for the resurrection?” This caught the farmer’s attention and he asked, “When’s it gonna be?” Thinking he had accomplished something the young preacher replied, “It could be today, tomorrow, or the next day.” Taking a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiping his brow, the farmer remarked, “Well, don’t mention it to my wife. She doesn’t get out much and she’ll wanna go all three days.”
7. A grown man, half-jokingly, half in earnest, explains his fear of flying: “Suppose the plane blows up in the air and I am blown to pieces. At the resurrection of the body, God will certainly find it difficult to assemble all my shattered pieces. I’d rather die as one piece so I will be among the first to raise whole from the dead.”
8. During a recollection for a group of high school students, a boy voiced out a problem: “My eldest brother was born ten years ahead of me, but he died when he was only two years old. My mother died when she was 50 years old. Suppose I die at 60 and then meet my brother and my mother in heaven, would I be older than either of them?”
20 Additional anecdotes:
1) Fight like a man: A Church Elder came by to visit the new pastor one Sunday afternoon. He had been a highly respected member of this congregation for over 25 years. While they were sitting on the back porch of the parsonage, the man said, “Pastor, I’ve got something to tell you. I’ve never told this to a soul, … it’s extremely difficult to tell you this now, … my wife and I … have argued … or had a fight almost every day … for the past 30 years … of our marriage.” The pastor was taken back. He nervously took a sip of his coffee. He wasn’t sure what to say. After a brief pause, the young Pastor said, “Every day?” “Yes, … just about … every day.” “Did you fight today, before you came to church?” “Yes.” …. “Well, how did it end up?” “She came crawling to me on her hands and knees.” “My Goodness! What did she say?” “Come out from under that bed you coward, and fight like a man!” (Pause). Well, our Gospel lesson today recalls the friction, the arguing, and the fighting that was going on between the Pharisees and the Sadducees almost every day during this Biblical period. (Rev. J. Jeffrey Smead). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) “I wouldn’t mind a few more years”: Father Mark Granito illustrates from his personal experience how we are tied down to this world of miseries in spite of our Faith in the Resurrection and everlasting life. “My mother died four years ago this month. I remember we used to celebrate her birthday in May, and I’d always take her out to some nice restaurant. When she turned 80, she said, “Well, I’m 80 now…that’s a very big number. There won’t be many more years left now.” At 81 and 82 she said, “It’s a big number! No one in my family has lived this long!” Occasionally, she’d say, “I wish God would take me! I’m fed up! I’m fed up with being sick! I’m ready to go on to Heaven!” And then she said, “I wonder what heaven is like…I hear you float around up there….!” Strangely, just a few weeks before she died, she said, “You know, I’m ready to go, but I wouldn’t mind a few more years…” Perhaps most priests have had similar experiences in their pastoral life in ministering to terminally ill patients who are unwilling to die in spite of their strong Faith in a heavenly reward awaiting them, as mentioned in today’s readings. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: You are middle-aged or older if you remember when the movie Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was first released. It was an exuberant, fast-paced musical about seven brothers on the frontier of the United States who were all looking for brides. Such “commodities” were rare in their part of the world. But, of course, in the end each brother got his bride. The story in our Gospel passage for today is about one bride for seven brothers, but the end of the story is not as happy and upbeat as was the movie. The story is part of a “knock-down, drag-out” debate or argument between Jesus and some of his most powerful opponents. (https://youtu.be/QbzJtP75NqM) . (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) The story of a gamomaniac: Karl Shaw tells in his book Oddballs and Eccentrics about Charles Radclyffe, the fifth Earl of Derwentwater. Shaw calls Radclyffe a gamomaniac. Gamomania is an obsessive disorder characterized by persistent proposals of marriage. Charles Radclyffe proposed on fifteen occasions to the reluctant Countess of Newburgh who became so annoyed by the constant harassment that she bolted herself in her home and gave instructions to her servants to throw him off the property on sight. The Earl finally found a way into her house by climbing on to her roof and lowering himself down the chimney into her drawing room where, black from soot, he made his sixteenth marriage proposal. This time his persistence paid off and she agreed to marry him. (Castle Books, p. 11) I guess he had finally worn her down. That’s a remarkable story. Fifteen rebuffs, and he had to climb down a chimney before she accepted his proposal! That story is almost as extraordinary as a riddle that some of the Sadducees posed for Jesus in today’s Gospel of a woman married to seven successive husbands. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) “10,000 space capsules up there flying around?” When the United States government got ready to launch the space program, some of the people who were opposed to the project asked, “What are we going to do when we get 10,000 of those things up there flying around?” That may have been an intelligent question, but those who asked it had stretched the whole space program out of proportion in order to make a point. In an effort to thwart the space program and make it look ridiculous, they imagined the heavens filled with space capsules. The Sadducees did not believe in the theory of resurrection, and in an effort to present an argument against it, they reduced the doctrine to the point of absurdity by telling a story found in the Book of Tobit of seven brothers who in succession married the same woman. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Vietnam Veterans Memorial artist on death and after life: Last spring, Maya Ying Lin stunned the architectural world when she won the nationwide design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial which was to be built on the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial. In an interview with Phil McCombs of the Washington Post, she shared some insights about death and our uneasiness with it. It is interesting to see ourselves through the eyes of this twenty-two-year-old Asian. She said: “We are supposedly the only creature that realizes its mortality … Man reacts to that by denying its existence. We don’t tell children about it. We say someone ‘went away, passed away.’ We can’t admit it to ourselves. That’s always disturbed me. If you can’t be honest about something that fundamental, if you tell little kids, ‘He’s just gone away,’ it’s just an unbelievable lie.” If the whole idea of resurrection is an unbelievable lie, perhaps a part of the reason is that we refuse to break out of the molds, relationships and structures that we currently find meaningful but which can be a stumbling block when we try to carry them forward into another life. Today’s Gospel gives us Jesus’ teaching on resurrection of the dead and the nature of their life after death. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) Warren Buffett’s fear of death: Warren Buffett, a financial investment genius and the second-richest man in America, has his doubts about life beyond the grave, and it worries him. Buffett admits, “There is one thing I am scared of. I am afraid to die.” His biographer Roger Lowenstein writes: “Warren’s exploits were always based on numbers, which he trusted above all else. In contrast, he did not subscribe to his family’s religion. Even at a young age, he was too mathematical, and too logical, to make the leap of faith. He adopted his father’s ethical underpinnings, but not his belief in an unseen Divinity.” And thus Warren Buffet, one of the most successful men in the world, is stricken with one terrifying fear–the fear of dying. On a lighter note, Buffett once said, “What I want people to say when they pass my casket is, “Boy, was he old!” [Roger Lowenstein, “Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist,” found in Thoughts of Chairman Buffett, compiled by Simon Reynolds (New York: Harper Business, 1998).] Today’s Gospel tells us about the prospect of a resurrected life with God in Heaven. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) Apple from the Garden of Eden: Anthony DeMello S.J. tells the story of a Muslim holy man who had just finished preaching. A heckler (cynic) from the audience shouted, “Instead of spouting spiritual theories why don’t you show us something practical?” Somewhat surprised, the holy man asked, “What kind of practical thing do you want me to show you?” The man, pleased that he had made the speaker uncomfortable and that he was making an impression on the audience, replied, “For instance, show us an apple from the Garden of Paradise.” Immediately the holy man bent down and picked up an apple from his shoulder bag and handed it to his questioner. “But this apple is bad on one side,” said the man. “Surely a heavenly apple would be perfect.” “True,” said the Mullah, “but given your present faculties, this is as near to a heavenly apple as you will ever get.” How are we to see a perfect apple with imperfect eyes? The same situation confronted the Sadducees in today’s Gospel lesson when they faced Jesus with a ridiculous question on the marital relationship in heaven. St. Paul said: “Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has in store for those that love him.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) Hope of reincarnated resurrection: A story came out of China sometime back that was heartbreaking. Fifty-one peasant girls seeking a better position in life committed suicide in 15 separate group-drownings in Jiangxi province, China. Many of the despairing teenagers dressed in their best clothes before jumping, in order to present a good image to the gods of the other-world. They were hoping to be reincarnated as rich, sophisticated city women. [The Comedian Who Choked .. . . . by the Editors of Fortean Times (Cader Books, New York, 1996), p. 57.] As people used to say, “They are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) “It’s time to rest, to go home, be with God and with my husband.” The Reverend George Alexander tells a profoundly moving story about a woman he met when he was beginning his clinical pastoral education. She was 71 years old. Alexander was 24. “The Lord’s been good to me but my husband’s gone, my children are grown; it’s time to rest, to go home, be with God and with my husband.” Alexander, with the inexperience of youth, thought she was afraid of surgery. So he reassured her. “Oh,” she said, “these are fine doctors and the nurses are great but I’ve had a good life, a full life, I’m ready to go home.” The young pastor-to-be was baffled in the face of her contentment; she was calm. Nurses came to take her to surgery and she asked him to read the 23rd Psalm. He read it, she shouted it and the nurses joined in what became, says Alexander, an unforgettable moment of joy. He later went to see her but the nurses met him, told him, before this elderly woman of Faith could be put to sleep, she went to sleep; she went to be with God. Here is how George Alexander sums up his experience: “I’d listened critically with ears and mind but my heart knew. I named the voice of God fear, accepted the joy in her life and denied her enthusiasm about death. I stood next to eternity and couldn’t accept it.” (http://www.stcatherines.org/RevAlexanderSermons.html). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) Film -The Day After: When the movie The Day After was shown on television in 1983, it caused quite a controversy. (https://youtu.be/Iyy9n8r16hs ) This was because it was focused on the ultimate What if- the event of a global nuclear war. What if the population of Kansas City is instantly reduced to vaporized silhouettes; What if the blistered wounded are doomed to die; What if some survivors are surrounded by radioactive fallout that settles like a fine white dust all over the earth? The Day After was intended primarily to provoke serious reflection and discussion about nuclear disarmament. But it also provokes questions about our Faith. Would a good God allow such a terrifying evil to happen? Why do we have to die at all? Is there really a resurrection? -Today’s readings suggest some answers to these questions, not in the sense of complete explanations, but in the sense of strengthening our Faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of the Living God. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) Perfect “Time out.” I was watching a college football game. It was between the University of Clemson and North Carolina State. It turned out to be a fantastic game full of all kinds of drama. With only a few seconds to go North Carolina State was in position to win the game with a field goal. Just before the ball was snapped the head coach of Clemson called a quick time out. He wanted to rattle the place-kicker. He had already missed a couple of field goals and I’m sure Clemson’s coach thought if the young man was interrupted that perhaps some doubt and fear would overcome him and he would miss again. Well, Clemson’s strategy worked perfectly. The young man tried his best but he was off by a couple of feet and the game went into overtime where Clemson went on to win the game. I was amazed at the precise timing of Clemson’s time out. It was faultless. It was called with just enough time to get into the young man’s mind and create some doubt in his ability to kick the field goal. It was done just at the right time to rattle him. And it worked. Our passage in Luke this morning deals with a time in Jesus’ life that the same type of devilish strategy was being attempted on Jesus. (Rev. Emie Arnold). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) Beware of “curve balls.” A successful major league batter gets a hit only 30 percent of the time he comes to bat. One of the ways pitchers lower these chances even further is by throwing a curveball. A curveball is a pitch that appears to be moving straight toward home plate but that is actually moving down and to the right or left by several inches. Obviously, a pitch that curves is going to be harder to hit than a fastball that is moving straight. Any baseball pitch begins with how the pitcher grips the ball. To throw a curveball, a pitcher must hold the baseball between his thumb and his index and middle fingers, with the middle finger resting on the baseball seam. When the pitcher comes through his motion to throw the ball, he snaps his wrist downward as he releases the ball, which gives the ball topspin. The spinning action created when the pitcher releases the ball is the secret behind the curveball. This spinning causes air to flow differently over the top of the ball than it does under the ball. This imbalance of force is called the Magnus Effect, named for physicist Gustav Magnus, who discovered in 1852 that a spinning object traveling through liquid is forced to move sideways. To play the game correctly you have to watch the spin. In public relations, spin is a form of propaganda, achieved through providing an interpretation of an event or campaign to persuade public opinion in favor or against a certain organization or public figure. While traditional public relations may also rely on a “creative” presentation of the facts, “spin” often implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. For year, businesses have used fake or misleading customer testimonials by editing/spinning a customer’s clients to reflect a much more satisfied experience than was actually the case. Another spin technique involves a delay in the release of bad news so it can be hidden in the shadow of more important or favorable news or events. The Sadducees in today’s Gospel text were all concerned about marriages and the afterlife and who is going to married to whom and Jesus breaks all that up because he says in describing Heaven that life there is not as it is on earth. (Rev. Amiri Hooker). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) Life is full of questions isn’t it? We start asking questions quite young. Can’t you remember that younger brother or sister, nephew, niece or grandchild who kept on asking you “Why?” Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why do I have to go to the dentist? Why can’t I have my cake before supper? Why? Why? Why? Too many questions can drive you insane. You probably ask a lot of them too. Our lives are filled with more ‘questions’ than ‘answers’. Humans are the only species on this planet which have this powerful, even maddening capacity to reason, to imagine, to doubt and to question. The animals that I have had, even the smartest ones, do not question things, but they react to things. People however, raise questions concerning things they know little or nothing about. We have strange and even complicated curiosity. We encourage our children to raise questions, because asking questions can make us make us smart, or maybe it will turn us into what my mother called me a couple of times, a ‘smart aleck’. Certainly, in the Sadducees in today’s Scripture could have been called ‘smart alecks’. Several times in this chapter various religious leaders come to Jesus with questions. In fact, the whole chapter is built upon 4 questions, 3 of which came from religious leaders themselves and one of which came from Jesus. All the questioning in this chapter starts with one very big, leading question: “Tell us, (Jesus) by what authority are you doing these things?” The question that comes in our text near the end of the chapter builds upon this one. The Sadducees, as Luke explains– ‘those who say there is no resurrection’—came to ask Jesus a question (vs. 27) about the resurrection they did not believe in. Of course, they were trying to trick Jesus into giving a wrong answer. The answer they got gave them a big surprise. The greatest rabbi in Judaism often answered questions by raising even bigger questions. It was a culture which said you ought to think through and answer the biggest questions yourself. ( Rev. Dr. Charles J. Tomlin). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
15) Apple or Android? Toyota or Honda? Hardwood or laminate? What kind of hard choices have you had to make recently? If you’re in the market for a car, you’ll do your research because you don’t want to pay good money for a vehicle that will break down in a couple of years. But with so many choices out there how can you be certain that you’ll pick the right one? You can never be sure that the car, computer, or condo you buy will live up to the vendor’s claims, but there’s not much you can do about it. Like everyone else you’ll have to plunk down your money and hope for the best. Thankfully that’s not how we have to handle mankind’s biggest question: “Is there life after death?” In our homily text today Jesus assures us that there is life after death because we can trust God’s power, and we can trust God’s pronouncements. (Rev. Daniel Habben). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) In front of St. Peter at the pearly gates. A man opens his eyes and realizes he’s in front of St. Peter at the pearly gates. Immediately St. Peter said, “It’s not so easy getting into Heaven. There are some criteria to be met before entering. “For example,” Peter said, “were you religious? Did you attend Church? Were you generous; give money to the poor? What about charities? Do you do any of these things?” The man sheepishly said, “No.” “Oh, that’s bad,” Peter mumbled. “Well, did you do any good deeds? …help your neighbor? Anything?” The man only shook his head. “Look,” Peter said, “everybody does something nice sometime. Work with me! I’m trying to help. Now think!” The man’s face took on a smile then he said. “There was this old lady. See, I came out of the store and found her surrounded by a dozen mean bikers. They had her purse and were shoving her, taunting and abusing her. So, I threw down my bags and fought through the crowd, got her purse back and helped her to her feet. Then I went up to the biggest biker and told him how despicable, cowardly and mean he was then spat in his face.” “Wow,” Peter said, “that’s impressive. When did this happen?” The man replied, “Oh, about 10-minutes ago.” The Master must have felt like the beleaguered old lady with the Sadducees, serving as the mean bikers, constantly going against Him. This time, the Sadducees were coming at Jesus in our focus scripture of Luke 20:27 through 38, with their disbelief in the resurrection of the soul. (Rev. Joe Tilton). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) People often ask me about Heaven. Will my grandpa and grandma be there? Will they be the same age- will they like the same things they like(d) on earth? How about my little poodle, “Itty Bit”? Will my pets and my friends be in Heaven? From time to time, I am asked these questions and generally I answer, “I don’t know.” I don’t have a definitive answer to most of these questions because Heaven is something that still awaits me. In his great vision (Rv 21), John saw streets of gold and pearly gates, but there is no mention of what our relationships with one another and “daily” life will be like in Heaven. It will be a new thing for those of us on earth. I look forward to it with all my heart, but I don’t have answers to many of the questions I receive. I have opinions, but they’re only opinions. I know many, many people who expect to live with their spouse when they get to Heaven, but I also know people who would consider such a reunion to be “hell.” Indeed, apart from God’s grace, I don’t even know if those who are asking me about Heaven will actually get to Heaven! People wonder about Heaven. My son died when he was just 3, grandpa lived to be 103- will the one be forever a toddler and the other forever old? Will there be diapers in Heaven? Baseball? Lawyers? My brother’s always been fat- will he be obese in Heaven? I don’t know, I don’t know… but I do know that the river of life runs through Heaven, and I know that the Communion we share in Church is just a foretaste of the banquet we will share, face-to-face, with our Lord and our God. I don’t know what will be served, but I do know that the least will be first. I don’t know who will be in heaven and who won’t be, but I do know that Heaven will be filled with forgiven sinners- some of whom gave their lives for Christ and some of whom cried out, “Remember me,” with their dying breath. I don’t what we will do in Heaven, but I pray that Heaven won’t involve any committee meetings. I don’t know whether Heaven will be filled with traditional or contemporary Christian music, but I do know that Heaven will be a place of worship and response. I also know that, in Heaven, we will finally be free of self and able, at last, to love God with all of our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. Heaven will be a place of humility. Every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue will confess Him as Lord. I don’t know whose names will be written in the Book of Life, but I know that Heaven will be filled with people who lived lives marked by the fruit of the Spirit. I also know that everyone in Heaven will be childlike, and that Heaven will be a place without hospitals, or prisons, or graveyards. There will be no violence, no betrayal, no manipulation, no scorecards; nor will there be any Alzheimer’s, or cancer, or addiction, not even any knee replacements in Heaven. In today’s Gospel Jesus gives the answer. (Rev Ken Shedenhelm). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) Riddles answered by Jesus: There are no riddles with Christ because He will always tell the truth and no one can outsmart Jesus because He is God! Let’s start with some fun; many of you will recognize them right away, so if that is you, please don’t answer. What is it? A box without hinges, key, or lid; Yet golden treasure inside is hid. [An egg]. What has roots as nobody sees, Is taller than trees, Up, up it goes, And yet never grows? [A mountain]. It cannot be seen, cannot be felt, cannot be heard, cannot be smelt. It lies behind stars and under hills, And empty holes it fills. It comes first and follows after, ends life, kills laughter. [Darkness]. This thing all things devours: Birds, beasts, trees, flowers; Gnaws iron, bites steel; Grinds hard stones to meal; Slays king, ruins town, and beats high mountain down. [Time]. These were riddles between Bilbo Baggins and Gollum in the book The Hobbit! What’s the purpose of riddles? Riddles are used for trying to outsmart another person! We will note 2 riddles in our Gospel passage today. What were they, why were they asked, and what were the answers? (Rev. Paul Clemente). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) There is no resurrection just as there is no life outside mother’s womb! In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.” “Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?” The second said, “ I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouth. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.” The first replied,” That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous ! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.” The second insisted,” Well I think there is something, and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.” The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover, if there is life, then why has no one ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere. ” Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.” The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?” The second said.” She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.” Said the first: “Well I don’t see her, so it is only logical that she doesn’t exit.” To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and listen, you can hear Her loving voice, calling.” Does that sound like the Sadducees’ argument in today’s gospel? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) Reward after the resurrection: A priest died and went to the Pearly Gates. Resplendent in his clerical collar and colorful robes he’s waiting in line and just ahead of him is a guy dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and jeans. Saint Peter addresses this guy, “Who are you, so that I may know whether or not to admit you into heaven?” The guy replies, “I’m Joe Green, New York City taxi-driver.” Saint Peter consults his list, smiles and says to the taxi-driver, “Take this silken robe and golden staff, and enter.” So, the taxi-driver enters Heaven with his robe and staff, and the minister is next in line. Without being asked, he proclaims, “I am Rev. Michael O’Connor, pastor of Saint Mary’s for the last forty-three years.” Saint Peter consults his list and says, “Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter into Heaven.” “Just a minute,” says the pastor, “that man was a taxi-driver, and you gave him a silken robe and golden staff. But I get a cotton robe and wooden staff? How can this be?” “Up here, we go by results,” says Saint Peter. “When you preached, people slept — when he drove, people prayed.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)L/19