10 November 2013

"All of His children are alive!

32nd Sunday OT 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
Our Lady of the Rosary, NOLA 

The Sadducees pose a difficult theological question to Jesus, hoping to catch him in an intellectual bind. Since they do not accept the novel idea of the resurrection, the Sadducees divide humanity into two categories: the Living and the Dead. Their convoluted scenario about the widow and her seven husbands is designed to refute the idea of a resurrection after death. If resurrection is real, they ask, then to which of her seven dead husbands will she be married after they are all resurrected? It's a set-up. And Jesus knows it. If he answers the question as posed, he will either have to name the dead husband, or deny the reality of the resurrection. So, he does what he always does when his religious opponents try to trap him: he spins the situation around and grabs the opportunity to teach his audience the truth. Calling on the authority of Moses, Jesus says, “. . .the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. . .is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Body and soul, living or deceased, all of His children are alive! Do you live as one alive in the Lord? 

Though none of here this evening have yet to experience the Resurrection of the Dead, we have some small idea of what being alive in the Lord means. We have all sinned. And we have all received God's mercy. We have all fallen flat on our faces. And we have all been raised up. We have all loved and lost. And we have all been found again by Love Himself. Being forgiven, being raised up from failure, and found by Love isn't the same as being resurrected from death—of course not—but we know what it feels like to die in small ways: to welcome sorrow and grief; to entertain despair and despair of hope; to consider the temptations of nothingness—just being no-thing at all. And then, right when sorrow and grief and despair are about to tip us over into an unrecoverable darkness, something breaks, something grabs us by the heart and mind and swings us back from the edge. As we walk away, back toward a light, all that darkness, everything that drew us in, changes, and now it looks like the trap that it is. “Our God is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Body and soul, living or deceased, all of His children are alive! Do you live as one alive in the Lord? Do you live in the constant, fervent hope of the resurrection? 

Maybe just once in your life, or maybe nearly every day, you experience something like the resurrection, a rising again from death, from sin, to live in the glory of the Lord. If so, thanks be to God! But we don't want to confuse the Resurrection of the Dead with its useful, psychological metaphor. I mean, yes, we can think of the Resurrection in terms of being spiritually renewed in love, but the Resurrection itself is something altogether different, something altogether more miraculous than feeling God's enduring mercy. The CCC teaches us: “Christ is raised with his own body. . .but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, 'all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,' but Christ 'will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,' into a 'spiritual body.' [How this happens] exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith” (nos. 999-1000). The Resurrection of the Dead at the end of this age is not a spiritual metaphor or a psychological transformation or a myth borrowed from our pagan ancestors; it is an historical event yet to be experienced, an event made possible by the only resurrection that we know to have taken place: the resurrection of Christ from the tomb on the third day after his death. 

Allow me another quote from the CCC: “In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body. God. . .will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus' Resurrection” (no. 997). Because Christ died and rose from death, our bodies, if we are perfectly united with him in life, our bodies will rise from the corruption of death, receive glorification from God, and be reunited with our immortal souls. We will live with God as whole persons—body and soul—incorruptible, forever perfect. Believing this, knowing this, we remain in Christ b/c remaining in Christ is how we will find ourselves raised and renewed in the Father's glory. We remain in Christ not b/c we want a reward or a prize, but b/c we have found in him a life of on-going perfection, a life of constant healing and renewal. A life lived with Christ is a life lived in the divine promise of eternal life, a life lived in hope, in the hope of the resurrection. We remain alive in the Lord by being living signs of God's love and mercy and hope for one another, for the nations, for all of His creation. If we are alive, He is our God, the God of all the living. 

Body and soul, living or deceased, all of God's children are alive! Do we live in the constant, fervent hope of the resurrection? Living in the hope of the resurrection is much more than just living in the expectation of being raised from the dead. That's too intellectual, too abstract. As Catholics, we gather weekly, daily to participate directly in the divine life of the Blessed Trinity. We are participating in that divine life right now, right here. When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we gather as One Body to partake in a sacrificial meal, a meal where Christ is made present in the bread and wine, where we eat and drink his body, blood, soul, and divinity, where we take into ourselves everything he is for us and anticipate our own transfiguration after death. In the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus wrote, “Just as bread is no longer ordinary bread after God's blessing has been invoked upon it, the Eucharist is formed of two things, one earthly, the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection.” Living in the hope of the resurrection is not an intellectual exercise, an abstract hobby—it is living a Eucharistic life, one moment of thanksgiving after another, one instance of praise after another, taking into ourselves all that Christ is for us so that we might become Christs for others. 

Jesus teaches the Sadducees and us: “. . .those who are deemed worthy to attain. . .to the resurrection of the dead. . .They can no longer die. . .they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.” We are the children of God b/c we have been adopted into His Holy Family by baptism. We remain His good children so long as we remain in Christ. Yes, we will die. Our bodies will be separated from our souls. We will die. But b/c Christ—in whom we remain—b/c Christ defeated death by rising from the tomb, we will not remain dead forever. And the life we live after death—perfect, whole, incorruptible—that life is the promise that must drive our lives here and now. Not Pie in the Sky By and By complacency but righteous, hopeful, loving service done in the name of Christ for the greater glory of God. We meet our Lord in the Eucharist. And we take him with us when we leave. If we will live in the hope of the resurrection, as the Father's children, we will allow anyone who wants to to meet him through us. Body and soul, living or deceased, all of God's children are alive! May they all meet Him in you and in me. 
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  1. I really wanted to like this homily, but . . . well . . . The first paragraph was informative, if somewhat dry, though I liked the final sentence - usually when you present a question like that I settle in for a fun ride. I did enjoy the second paragraph, quite a bit - you started building energy and I sensed the pace changing. The third paragraph, though, returned to the staid, informative tone of the first. Which you maintained into the fourth paragraph, but about midway through ("Believing in this . . .") you found your energy again, which you maintained pretty well through to the end.

    It wasn't a bad homily, I just found it to be somewhat incomplete - there were many good parts (about half the homily), which parts I bet preached really well, and as a whole I appreciated where you went with it, but stylistically it was, for me, a little jarring.

    1. This is one of those Pulling Teeth homilies. I started it at 6am and didn't finish until 4.30pm. I didn't think it would ever be completed!