Homily for the Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 2019
We have come to that time of the year when the Church offers us an opportunity to ask ourselves some soul-searching questions. Who are we? Where have we come from? Why are we here on earth? What is our purpose in life? Where are we going to? How shall live our lives and get to our destination? Fundamental to these questions is the question, “What are we living for.” Are we living for ourselves, for our country, an idea, our jobs, or are we living for nothing?
Whatever our answer may be, the truth is that we are influenced by what we live for. For instance, if we live for ourselves, we make choices base on our own worldview. We comply to our own laws and are accountable to ourselves. While this may sound convenient and indeed convincing to many, it comes with a few problems. There is the problem of our finite nature, which limits us, makes us susceptible to corruption and evil. And we easily give up on ourselves.
Perhaps, we live for the here and now. There is nothing beyond the present life as the secular and atheistic philosophy upholds. We live for what we can see, and empirically verify. We live for the findings and the conclusions of the sciences. There is some good in living for this end. We can see the result for ourselves: the medical breakthroughs and the technological achievements. But there are also problems. The problem of living in denial of spiritual reality.
And this denial has deep psychological effects on us. For we are not just bodies, we are mind, body and soul. There is a spiritual side to our being. To deny the existence of our soul, is to deny who we are. It is to reduce ourselves to objects. It is to live a lie. And as the Australian author Francis Joseph Sheed puts it, “To live this way is the very definition of insanity.” Could this be the reason why mental health is becoming a growing health concern in our society?
Rupert Shortt, an English author sums it up well, “Atheistic society does not take away our deepest problems like the presence of evil in our God created world, meaning and death; it takes away our hope.” Hope as we know is living in the moment with the sense that there is the God that transcends the here and now. It is living with the certainty that God will see to our future; that He will keep His promises to us. As a result, if today is not ok, we don’t have to give up. We live through the day looking forward to the possibilities God is offering us.
So, when atheism takes away our hope, it takes away our future. It takes away our life. “For deep within us,” as Karl Rahner observed, “we are a people of hope.” Our whole story is that of hope. We are constantly hoping, looking ahead to the fulfilment of God’s promises. And as the English saying goes, “Where there is hope, there is life,” which also means “where there is no hope, there is no life.” Can we see the implications of living solely for the present, living for nothing?
With these problems and their attendant consequences, living for oneself, for philanthropic ideals, our jobs, for nothing or whatever is not good enough. These things do not take on and answer our deepest questions. Thus, we do not have to live for these ends. We must turn to God who transcends us; live for Him who is not limited, who is unchanging and who is eternal. For He alone can make us whole, fulfil our hopes and heal our restless hearts. And He is trustworthy.
This is the God the mother of the seven brothers in our First Reading from 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 worshipped. He is the God she taught her children to live for. He is the God that defined their worldview, fulfilled their deepest desires and assured them of a life beyond the here and now. She constantly drew their attention to the fact that if God could create the whole universe and humanity out of nothing, He can just as well raise them up again and give them new life.
This hope robbed death of its horror. It gave her children a new perspective to life. It meant death does not have the last word; that death is not an end, but a change of life. A life that transcends the reality of the present life. And since death does not have the last word, but the God they live for does, therefore, they had to obey God’s Law, and not the law of the king. This is the power of hope. It freed the seven brothers and their mother from slavery to the king.
It is the power that threatened the Sadducees. It threatened them because the Sadducees were the aristocrats, the priestly class; men with deep-seated political ambition. They had great connection with the Romans, and they did all they could to protect that relationship in order to keep the Temple going since it was the means of their livelihood. So, they lived for their job. They were defined by it. They could not see any possibility outside the Temple and their job.
So, they denied the resurrection. Not because there is no resurrection of the body or an afterlife, but because they feared that when the Jews believe in the resurrection it will cause a revolution which will ruin their relationship with the Romans. This background helps us to appreciate Jesus’ response to the Sadducees in the Gospel Reading from Luke 20:27-38. First, He summoned them to change their thinking, and to stop reducing all realities to the present reality.
Second, He pointed out to the Sadducees that they chose texts of the Torah that appealed to their selfish ambitions and ignored the ones that do not. For if they had read the whole Torah, they would have come across the passage of the Burning Bush that speaks about the dead shall rise again. They would have been possessed by the hope the Torah offers, died to the powers of this world and lived for God. This is the summons of the Gospel Reading. It invites us to open ourselves to the fullness of God’s revelation, accept the hope it offers and live for God.
Fr. Francis Afu