HOMILY FOR THE 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR C.
THEME: HEAVEN OR NOTHING ELSE.
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka.
R1 – 2Mac 7:1-2, 9-14
R2 – 2Thess 2:16-3:5
GOSPEL – Luke 20:27-38
A priest died and went to the Heavenly Gates. Resplendent in his clerical collar and colorful vestments, 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 John the popular Okada (byke) man in Alaba International Market.” Saint Peter consults his list, smiles and says to the Okada man, “Take this silken robe and golden staff, and enter.” So, the Okada man enters Heaven with his robe and staff, and the minister is next in line. Without being asked, he proclaims, “I am Rev. Msgr. Innocent Onyeoma Odinkemelu, the Parish Priest of Saint Mary’s Parish… 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 priest, “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.”
Beloved in Christ, the readings of this Sunday’s liturgy all have eschatological proportion. The funny introit story is meant to draw our attention to the fact that there’s life here, and here-after; and in the afterlife, who you are here does not count, rather we shall be judged by our deeds not tittles. Certainly, as the liturgical year draws to an end, the Church presents us with readings that emphasize and warn her children about the end time.
The first reading presents us with the story of the martyrdom of seven brothers who urged by their mother to remain faithful to God with the hope that they will enjoy the glory of the resurrection to come. Each one of them was willing to die for the Law of Moses because they believed in afterlife and that at the last trumpet, the King of the universe would raise them up to everlasting life. They were ready to die rather than sin, trusting in the Lord God to raise them up again with their bodies being fully restored.
In the second reading, we see St Paul’s admonishments to the Thessalonians to sustain the hope in the second coming of Christ, with trusting fidelity to God Who would strengthen their hearts in every good work and word.
While in the Gospel reading, we are presented with Jesus’ confrontation with the Sadducees which bothered on the resurrection and life-hereafter. They confronted Jesus with the story of seven brothers marrying one woman and their relation with each other in the other life. Their question in the Gospel is certainly insincere and the near-impossible example they use regarding the seven brothers is purposely meant to sound silly in order to ridicule a belief in the resurrection.
BRIEF EXEGETICAL ANALYSIS OF THE GOSPEL
Prior to the events of today’s Gospel were Jesus encounters with the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees, who with a well-planned plot to trap Him, approached him with two controversial questions:
(i) “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things and who is it who gave you this authority?” (Lk 20:2).
(ii) “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” (Lk 20:22).
Learning that Jesus had ingeniously escaped from the first two traps, the Sadducees, in today’s Gospel lesson (Lk. 20:27-38), who never believed in the resurrection and never intended believing in it because it has no traces in the Torah; or did they believe in the coming of the Messiah; asked a question concerning the marital state after the resurrection. The challenge to Jesus was clear: do you believe in the written Torah, which is silent on the resurrection, or do you side with the Pharisees, accepting their belief in the resurrection based on oral traditions and interpretations, and thus subjecting Moses to ridicule?
It was nothing but a trap to pull Jesus down, in order to destroy or lynch him.
In response, Jesus begins his counter-argument by pointing out the Sadducees’ ignorance about the existence and nature of life after death with God. He refutes their misconception that eternal life is in this world. Then Jesus goes on the offensive, making two points.
(i) He makes allusion to Biblical proof for the reality of resurrected existence, by citing the event of the burning bush, “I AM the God of your Fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Ex 3:1-6). Here, Jesus referencing of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is in the present, like they are still alive, even after like 600 years of their death. This shows that there is life hereafter.
Thus, Jesus uses the Sadducees’ sacred text of the Torah to respond to their anti-resurrection belief, and therefore, the resurrection of the body can be proved from the Torah itself.
(ii) Jesus explains that the afterlife will be a different kind of existence different from this life. Things will be different after we die. Our worldview about human relations, including marriage, will be transformed. Hence, our souls are immortal.
(1) *WE MUST LIVE A RESURRECTION-CONSCIOUS CHRISTIAN LIFE*
The central message of today’s liturgy is the awareness of the fact that there is eternal life, which is the life of communion and fellowship with God. Fr. Ozele had once differentiated Eternal life from Everlasting life. According to him, every immortal soul would take part in everlasting life (ndu ebighiebi), whether in heaven or hell; but not all will partake in the Eternal life (ndu ebebe) which is the life of communion and fellowship with God in Heaven. Hence, we need to live as people of the Resurrection: This means that we are not to lie buried in the tomb of our sins and evil habits. Instead, we are to live joyful and peaceful lives, constantly experiencing the real Presence of the Risen Lord who gives us the assurance that our bodies also will be raised.
(2) *WE SHOULD ESCHEW P.H.D. (Pull Him Down) SYNDROME.*
The world has been designed in such a way that we obviously meet people who are better than us in various aspects of life. And probably, there are areas we are far better than others. This shows that we must acknowledge the fact that I cannot be better in all fields. Remember, the beautiful ones are not yet born. Instead of striving to pull the other down, like the Chief priests, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, why not appreciate God the bestower of such esteemed gifts in the other.
(3) *TO BE COUNTED AMONG THE RESURRECTION PEOPLE, WE MUST LEARN TO SWIM AGAINST THE CURRENT*
We learn from the seven brothers today, how not to conform to the standards of the world (ROM. 12:2). This is because, in terms of morality, the concept of ‘everyone does it’ does not justify an evil act. Majority doesn’t carry the vote in God’s presence. Rather, faithfulness, commitment and constancy take the lead.
Finally, in one of his lighter moments, Benjamin Franklin, one of the most important Founding Fathers of the United States, penned his own epitaph. It seems he must have been influenced by Paul’s teaching on the resurrection of the body. 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.
Beloved, let’s always remember that we’re not earth-bound, our destination is upward in heaven; and whatever you do, remember, IT’S HEAVEN OR NOTHING ELSE.
MAY THE LORD RECREATE IN US THE AWARENESS THAT WE ARE NOT EARTH-BOUND AND THE GRACE REDIRECT OUR WILL TOWARDS LIVING A RESURRECTION-CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE. AMEN!
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