YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: CHILDREN OF THE RESURRECTION
BY: Fr. Ben Ogechi Agbara
HOMILY: THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
2Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 16(17):1, 5-6, 8, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38
As we get closer to the end of the liturgical Year C the Church’s liturgy shifts our attention to eschatological issues. Eschatology is a branch of theology that focuses on the last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell. The hallmark of Christian eschatology is the belief in the life after death or the belief in the resurrection of the dead. The creed concludes with the profession of faith in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. From the time of JESUS to this day we have had people who disbelieved the doctrine of the resurrection. The Gospel of today presents one of such groups, the Sadducees. Who were the Sadducees and what did they stand for? The Sadducees emerged both as a political and religious interest group around the second century B.C. The Sadducees were a party of Judaism active in JESUS’ time. They descended from the priestly family of Zadok and derived the name from Zadok, who served under King Solomon (1Kings 2:35). In JESUS’ day, it was likely that many Sadducees were wealthy and held important positions in Israel. They maintained a good relationship with the Roman authorities and that helped them to occupy important positions and to amass wealth.
They opposed the Pharisees in their antagonism towards the Roman rule. The major thing that distinguished them was their religious beliefs. They did not believe any doctrine not explicitly taught in the Pentateuch. And so they did not believe in the doctrine of the resurrection, the existence of angels or spirits, which the Pharisees believed (Acts 23:6-8). In the gospel reading of today, they tried to ridicule the doctrine of the resurrection by citing a practice that is based on the Pentateuch. That is the practice of inheritance of widows. According to Deuteronomy 25:5-10, if a man died without producing an heir, the man’s brother should marry his wife and the offspring of this union would inherit the property and carry on the name of the man who had died. The Sadducees use this as an example to challenge belief in the resurrection.
The answer given by JESUS reveals how limited the Sadducees were in their imagination. The children of the resurrection do not marry. They do not marry because they will not die again. The law of inheriting widows was made because of the need to raise children that will replace the dead man. When there is no death, there will be no need for such. JESUS also used a part of the Pentateuch to answer them. GOD is the God of the living. He is also the GOD of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These patriarchs were already dead at the time GOD was referred as their God. The conclusion is that they still live even after death, meaning that there is life after death.
The resurrection of JESUS is the basis of our faith. St Paul says that if CHRIST had not risen, our faith would have been in vain. It is his resurrection that assures us of our own resurrection. The doctrine of the resurrection is an article of faith. It should also be an article of life. If we believe in the resurrection, let it reflect itself in the life we live. Let us not see the present world as the be-all and the end-all. The faith in the resurrection reflected in the life of the seven brothers in the first reading of today. They preferred to die rather than contravene the law of GOD. They refused to eat pork meat because it was not allowed by the law of their GOD. They were convinced that it is better to die than to disobey GOD, because their death will not be the end. This is shown in what they said before they were killed. One said, “We are prepared to die rather than break the Law of our ancestors”. Another said, “Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for His laws that we die, to live again forever”. Yet another, “It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of His laws I disdain them; from Him I hope to receive them again”. And lastly, another said, “Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on GOD’s promise that we shall be raised up by Him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life”. The words of these brothers show that their faith was their life.
These brothers have something to teach us today. In our world, the law of GOD has become a foregone alternative. People may not openly speak against the doctrine of the resurrection, but their actions show that what matters is gaining earthly popularity and prosperity. We readily say “no” to GOD in order to follow the demands of the world. The brothers challenge us to stand firm on our faith even when it has become unpopular and even dangerous to do so. JESUS invites us to faith in a GOD of the living. The invitation is a source of hope, because after this life, there is another fellowship in heaven. It is also a challenge for us to live like people who do not see the world as everything. While we make the world a comfortable place to live, let us also prepare for a more comfortable existence after the present life by the way we live. The end of the liturgical year reminds us that one day our present life will end. Let us prepare for a better and happier existence.
GOD bless us!