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Homily, 32nd Sunday in OT: “What Are We Afraid Of?”

November 13, 2010

The Gospel Reading is here.

Homily Audio is here.

What are we afraid of?


We fear death, in our culture.  We spend billions of dollars every year to trying to keep people from dying; we look at death as a failure when it comes.  We hate the thought of dying; even when we’re going through it, we don’t like to talk about it with our closest family members.  Even people like me, who are supposed to minister to people when they experience a death, are uncomfortable around death.

The daily news brings death right up to our doorstep; violent weather, warfare, terrorism, evil people; all seem to threaten us, or to threaten someone, with loss of life!  Anyone my age or older spent hours away from home when we were 8, 9, 10 years old; no one worried about us.  Today… how many of us would wait more than 10 minutes before getting in the car and to look for our children? We’re very aware of death.

But…how does this focus on death affect us?  What does this concern about death…keep us from doing?

What, exactly, are we living for? And what, if anything, are we willing to die for?   

 

Here at the end of the liturgical year, our readings ask us to reflect on the eschaton, the End Times.  Each week, we get another glimpse at what Scripture has to say about the end of the world, when Jesus returns to establish new heavens and a new earth.  Everything points to the reason for our hope:  that Jesus Christ has died, is risen, and will come again.

The first reading today is from the Second Book of Maccabees.    This reading tells us two important things.   First, the brothers were willing to die rather than disobey God’s laws.  Second, they believed in an afterlife that was worth dying for. The seven brothers were bold in their belief in the resurrection.

The Sadducees of today’s Gospel were equally bold in their disbelief in the resurrection. The Sadducees just couldn’t imagine any life after death that would be any different from the life they were living.  And Jesus turns their question on its ear by explaining that the life they are thinking of is nothing like life with God after death!  Then He goes on to remind them of Moses, in whom they did believe, and of how the Lord described Himself on Mount Horeb: “…the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”.  Jesus explains, in terms the Sadducees can’t deny, that the Resurrection of the dead is real.

Unlike the Sadducees, we live in this age of technology where it seems that we can do almost anything; doctors and hospitals exist precisely to push back illness and death.  We work hard to make our bodies strong, to eat the right way, and to maintain the right weight.  And we shepherd our finances carefully, investing here, making a smart purchase there, to prepare for our old age. We act, sometimes, as if we’re never going to die, and we carefully prepare for a long life.

On top of this, we make decisions about what we do in response to our Christian call with the fear of death in our minds.  We can be apprehensive about putting ourselves out there for people, especially for strangers, because we can’t always control what happens. 

So what does all this have to do with the End Times?  How does this affect what we do every day?

Basically, Jesus is telling us not to fear death.  He is assuring us that death is no end, for the Christian.  He is telling us that even those who have preceded us in death are alive, because God is the God of the living

 

But…death…kinda sucks, doesn’t it?  At least, it does for all of us who are left behind.  Death leaves a hole in our lives.  It takes out people we love.  Death hurts. And we can spend years mourning the loss of loved ones.

But brothers and sisters, the problem is not with death itself.  Our problem is with our conception of death.  The culture strives to make us all think that this… is all that there is, and that we have to “go for the gusto” in this life so that we don’t miss out. And thinking like that, there is nothing, really, that is off-limits or out-of-bounds.  Sin doesn’t matter…being faithful doesn’t matter.

We have to deny the lie.  We  have to embrace the “everlasting encouragement and good hope” of which Paul spoke in the second reading, and let Jesus ”encourage [our] hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word”!

Yes, death sucks.  But as our readings point out, there is something more.   

 

It’s understandable that we might fear death.  Most of us have experienced death in our lives, and it isn’t pleasant. 

But Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has shown us that death has no real power over us: death is only a step along the path to eternal life with God.  The seven brothers in the first reading understood this; the Sadducees in the Gospel reading didn’t.

 But we have the advantage of knowing that, just as Jesus was raised from the dead, all of us will be raised to eternal life with God.  This is the core of our faith, and once we embrace it, it frees us in a way that nothing else can, to live life for God.

So…what do we live for?  What are we willing to die for? 

The seven brothers knew. 

Do we?

 

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