FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 | Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15 | 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 | Luke 20:27, 34-38
Last Sunday’s Old Testament reading spoke mostly of God’s mercy. This Sunday’s readings focus on the hope of resurrection.
Successful businessman Phil, his loving wife Anlene, and his tyrannical mother-in-law went on a pilgrimage to Israel, Jordan and Turkey. While they were in the Holy Land, the mother-in-law had a heart attack—a massive one and instantly passed away. An undertaker told them "You can have her shipped home for ₱252,450.00, or you can bury her here in Holy Land only for ₱7,572.75." Phil thought about it carefully and told him he would just have her shipped home. The undertaker asked "Your mother-in-law must have been really good to you. Why would you spend a quarter of a million to ship your mother-in-law home, when it would be wonderful to have her buried in Jerusalem and only spend ₱7,572.75?" Phil said “Long ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance”.
Today’s first reading illustrates some of the gruesome atrocities endured by those Jews who resisted the influence of the Greeks. We hear from the Second book of Maccabees that Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes has ravaged Jerusalem, especially the temple and its treasures. He has left behind officials to subdue the Jewish people and force them to reject their customs and their God. They placed a pagan idol on the altar in the Temple, forbade circumcision under pain of death, burned up Torah scrolls and forbade their dietary laws. The loyalty check consisted of eating Lapid's Chicharon and Barbecue, which no observant Jew would do for it is a violation of conscience and one’s covenant with God. The Jewish martyrs resisted and many paid with their lives. The Jewish martyrs have a strong belief in the promise of bodily resurrection. The hope of a martyr always lies in this reality—that beyond physical death is a much greater life, that hope is not extinguished by death. What are we willing to suffer for our faith or for a matter of principle and conscience nowadays?
Lying in a hospital bed, Nicolas, a dying man began to move wildly and motions as if he would like to say something. Fr. Raoul, the priest, keeping watch at the side of his bed, leaned quietly over and asked, "Do you have something you would like to say?" Nicolas nodded to the affirmative and the priest handed him a pad and pen. Fr. Raoul said, "I know you can't speak, but write a note and I will give it to your wife. She's waiting just outside." Gathering his last bit of strength, Nicolas scrawled his message on the pad and stuffed it into Fr. Raoul's hands. Moments later, Nicolas died. After administering the Last Rites, Fr. Raoul left to break the sad news to the wife. After consoling her a bit, the priest handed her the note. "Here are your husband's last words. He wrote them just for you." Carmencita, the wife, tearfully opened the note which read: "Get off of my oxygen hose!!!"
We are a pilgrim people. Life is our pilgrimage and heaven is our destination. We will all surely die one day but we can have confidence in God's promise of resurrection. As we focus today on our ultimate destiny, let us use the words of Saint Paul in his Second letter to the Thessalonians, and pray that the Lord will direct and encourage our hearts to focus on His love and the steadfastness of Christ. Once again, we need not allow the fear of physical death to control our thoughts and actions — an intimate relationship with Christ makes us truly alive!
A woman looked out the window of her home and was horrified to see her Rottweiler shaking the life out of the neighbor’s pet rabbit. Her family had been quarreling with these neighbors; this was certainly going to make matters worse. She grabbed a broom and ran outside, pummeling the pooch until he dropped the rabbit now covered with dog-spit—and was extremely dead. What was she going to do? The woman lifted the rabbit with the end of the broom and brought it into the house. She dumped its lifeless body into the bathtub and turned on the shower. When the water running off the rabbit was clean, she rolled him over and rinsed the other side. Now she had a plan. She found her hair-dryer and blew the rabbit dry. Using an old comb, she groomed the rabbit until he looked pretty good. Then, when the neighbor wasn’t looking, she hopped over the fence, sneaked across the back yard, and propped him up in his cage. No way was she taking the blame for this thing! About an hour later, she heard screams coming from the neighbor’s yard. She ran outside, pretending she didn’t know what was going on. Her neighbor came running to the fence. All the blood had drained from her face. “Our rabbit, our rabbit!” she blubbered. “He died two weeks ago, we buried him, and now he’s back!”
As Christians, our hope is grounded in our belief in the resurrection of the dead. Every time we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we affirm our belief in what will happen to us after death: “’I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” In this Sunday's Gospel, Jesus encounters the Sadducees, a Jewish sect of priests who do not believe in resurrection because they can’t find it literally taught in the Scriptures. Despite their dislike of the Pharisees, they united with them in opposition to Jesus. They pose a question to him. On the surface, the question is about interpretation of the Law involving marriage. Their intent was to trick Jesus into either denying or affirming the resurrection of the dead. Jesus' response is telling: God's children live forever. To God, all are alive. His response to the Sadducees shows that sometimes we miss the most important things about what God has planned for us because we get stuck in the details of human existence. We make the big mistake of majoring on the minors. Jesus wants us to open our minds and hearts to the possibilities that God has in store for us. Our Catholic faith tells us that when we die our life is changed, not ended. This is good news because we know that we will continue to share a relationship with God even after our death. <enrique, ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum