31st Sunday Ordinary
In a recent homily Pope Frances gave he spoke about the church being for everyone. God sends out his invitation to all people, he said, but many however never accept the invitation to the feast. While others accept it and come in but only stand in the back and don’t fully commit or participate. The Pope went on to say that we need to be a more “welcoming church,” and stop putting up barriers and keeping people out because they are sinners. Quote: “The Church is not the Church only for good people. Do we want to describe who belongs to the Church, to this feast? The sinners. All of us sinners are invited.”
The Holy Father is calling the church – you and me, the body faithful, to bring new life into our relationship with the Lord. Our readings today bring out this point as we can see so clearly in the First Reading from the Book of Maccabees. This family is being tortured and put to death because they will not break their covenant with God and eat pork.
Sounds extreme to us to be willing to die for what appears to be a rather minor infraction, at best. But that would be missing the deeper meaning behind the story. It speaks loud and clear about what Pope Frances is saying, don’t be lukewarm catholics; those who have accepted the Lord’s invitation to the banquet but then only stand in the back he says, are not fully participating. Pope Frances warned, “this is not sufficient, because if you don’t participate you are not a Christian,…you were on the guest list…but you do not fully enter the community in service of one for the other.” For us the practical question becomes: are you a lukewarm Christian who fulfills only your Sunday obligation by showing up or are you ready to become a fully committed Christian as the Holy Father is challenging all of us to be? “Each of us is called to participate fully in the feast…You either participate fully or you remain outside. You can’t pick and choose…”
Our gospel is also leading us to a much deeper truth than what we read on the surface. This is a story about eternal life, where there is no time, as we know it now. For God we are all alive, even those who have gone before us; for they are living their eternal life now face to face with God.
Perhaps you are familiar with the young Irish singer, Josh Groban. The lyrics of his song, To Where You Are, are about a deceased loved one writes, you are only “a breath from here to where you are…” In Jesus’ time it was well known among the Jews that Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead and they were constantly trying to entrap Jesus to show he was a false prophet – that he did not follow the law of Moses.
Jesus knew what they were trying to do and as usual he turn the tables on them, embarrassing them and they walk away shame faced. Jesus knew and believed in Resurrection, he shows them how small minded they are and brings the story to a much deeper level of meaning. For God, life and death there is no difference; all are alive in God. We merely pass from one form of being to another.
One of my professors in theology explained it this way: life and death are part of a continuing existence, we change only the form of our existence, our being remains the same. This continuation is a circle ( draw circle ) we are all part of God, we have existed in God for all time: we live, move, and have our Being in God (top of the circle). We are born into our human condition, our soul takes on flesh and blood, becoming human, and we live this life – existence – for merely a tip of a pencil mark along the continuous line of eternity
( bottom of the circle). Our time here is short. At the end of our time here on earth we return to our former existence (top of circle) – pure being, living spirit, reunited with God, where we see, as we once did, God face to face.
Death scares us all; the physically separation from our loved ones and our uncertainty about what is to follow. It is our faith in Jesus Christ who has gone before us and conquered death that sustains us through this passageway. Jesus’ resurrection is our proof in faith that for God: yesterday, today, and tomorrow are one in the same.
Which brings me back to Josh Groans’ song; we are here in our body existence and those who have gone before us in the sign of faith are but a “breath” away; for in God we are all equally alive. We are in God and of God; therefore, we have no beginning and no end, for in God – all are one. AMEN.