YEAR C: HOMILY FOR 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: GOD OF THE LIVING, NOT OF THE DEAD!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * 2 Macc 7 : 1 – 14, 2 Thess 2 : 16 – 3 : 5, Lk 20 : 27 – 38.
A. INTRODUCTORY RESUME
We would like to begin our reflection today by anchoring our resurrectional faith on the Church’s funeral preface that says : ‘In him the hope of blessed resurrection has dawned, that those saddened by the certainty of dying, might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come. Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven’.
The almighty question about the dead is whether they are actually dead (pagan ideology) , asleep (protestant ideology ) or alive (Catholic ideology)? Let’s listen straight away to the scriptures : ‘Behold, I tell you a mystery : we shall not all sleep but we shall all be changed in a moment at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised imperishable and we shall be changed. When the perishable has been clothed with imperishability, then the saying that is written will come true – ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory, O death where is your victory? Where is your sting?’ 1 Cor 15 : 51 – 55.
This Pauline statement still hangs on a confusion about the immediate state of the dead in the Lord – asleep till the last trumpet? Or alive and active in heaven?
Jesus made this doubt very clear when he told Martha ‘I am the resurrection and life. Whoever believes in me eventhough he dies he shall live. But whoever lives and believes in me will never die’, Jn 11 : 25 – 26. That means our real heroes of faith (the Saints) are actually not dead or even asleep but are alive in heaven. Heaven is not an end time reservoir for the Saints, otherwise Jesus would not have painted the picture of the poor pious man Lazarus going there even before the end time, Lk 16 : 19 – 31.
B. RESURRECTIONAL FAITH IN O. T BIBLICAL THEOLOGY.
We have in today’s 1st reading, the highest account in O. T Biblical theology of resurrectional faith – an O. T account of martyrdom which Tertullian later described as ‘the seed bed of Christianity’. The King tried to force these young men of faith to taste pig’s flesh which the Jewish law forbade but met stiff resistance. They simply told him : ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’ s hand yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him ; whereas for you, there can be no hope of resurrection to new life’.
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St Paul captured this kind of daring faith for martyrdom when he said : ‘We are subjected to every hardship, but never distressed.. We carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus too, may be visible in our body’, 2 Cor 4 : 8 f. As St Ambrose put it : ‘Death then must already be active in us if life (spiritual) is to be active’. Although some Christians have rejected some of these essential Old Testament wisdom books on martyrdom and resurrectional faith, but the book of Job remains an eloquent testimony of this kind of faith : ‘I know that my redeemer liveth and after this body is destroyed yet in my flesh I shall see God’, Job 19 : 25 – 26. This has become a kind of prologomenon for the New Testament belief in the resurrection of the body.
C. RESURRECTIONAL FAITH IN N.T BIBLICAL THEOLOGY.
What we find in today’s gospel pericope is a little face of between the Saducees and the Pharisees’ Ideology -between the Hellenist Jewish faith and the Orthodox Jewish faith, so to speak. The Saducees did not believe in spiritual realities ; angels, resurrection, immortality of the soul, etc. They rejected the prophetic and wisdom books of the O. T which we mentioned above. They wanted to demonstrate to Jesus the absurdity of the ‘old school Judaic belief’ in the resurrection. But Christ routed their arguments telling them that they are wrong because they neither believe in the scriptures nor in the power of God. The sons of the resurrection are like Angels in heaven who do not marry nor have our earthly kind of body. St Augustine calls this kind of body ‘spiritual bodies’.
D. THE SADUCEES AMONG US!
The Saducees among us today, even parading as Christians or even priests are the enemies of the resurrection. They always doubt the revelations of the Angels or things of the spirit or metaphysical realities. The protestant notion about the state of the dead Saints are not even far from the Saducees’ position. How would they relegate departed Saints like our Blessed Virgin Mary, Ss Peter and Paul who are supposed to be in heaven to the spiritual position of people asleep in their graves spiritually incapacitated to join us in intercession? Why wouldn’t they understand that the greatest proof Jesus gave for the life after death is his own resurrection and immediate ascension into heaven? Why would he ascend to heaven and leave the dead Saints in their own graves till the end time?
We need to make a fundamental option /choice for eternal life believing exactly what Christ told us to believe that he is the resurrection and life. The God we serve is the God of the living not of the dead. Therefore, our ancestors in faith, beginning from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob.. to the New Testament heroes of faith have all been woken up from their sleep (death) by the risen Christ. The Catholic practice of praying with Mary and all the Saints is based on this resurrectional faith. As the poet John Donne put it : ‘By the passing of one short sleep, we wake up eternally and death shall be no more’.
- Join me in singing this song : Bye and bye, when the morning comes. All the Saints are gathered over there. We will tell the story how we overcame. We will tell the story better bye and bye.
Happy Sunday dear friends!