Saturday, November 5, 2016

Homily 2016/11/06 - God of the Living

Before Mass:
Pay attention to that first reading – it’s kind of gruesome… but don’t think of it as a story from 3000 years ago.  This story could just as easily have been written about Mexico just a century ago – or – it could be happening this very day in the Middle East.  Martyrdom has been a part of the Jewish and Christian faiths since the beginning.  You and I may very well see the day where this story continues in our own country.  It’s a disturbing thought… but… there is good news here.  Listen today for the GOOD news.

Now – at first glance, that Gospel might seem like it’s about marriage.  But that’s really just a side-issue.  See the Sadducees don’t believe in the Resurrection, so they were trying to prove to Jesus that it’s not possible – and their approach was actually quite logical.  See – in Jewish law, if your brother died, you had to take his wife as your own and raise up heirs in his name.  This was the law.   So they presented this hypothetical, yet realistic scenario of the woman who married seven brothers…  Jesus – don’t you see what kind of problem this creates?  If they’re all resurrected, there’s gonna be a big fight on the other side because all of them will claim her as his wife!

Jesus sees through their thinly veiled tactics and kinda brushes off the side issue.  He drills straight to the point:  look guys, there IS a resurrection… even Moses, whom you consider to be possibly your greatest fore- father of your faith – even he knew there was a resurrection.   The Sadducees would have been very familiar with the name Moses used for God “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.  In fact, these Sadducees would have used the very same name for God DAILY in their own prayers.  Jesus was quite brilliant to use their own words against them:  In spite of the fact that these patriarchs have died, God continues being their God, their protector, their friend. Death hasn’t been able to destroy God’s love and fidelity toward them.  We don’t refer to God in the past tense… God IS.

This is REALLY good news.  This is direct words from Jesus which confirm for us that there IS a resurrection… that THIS life ain’t all there is.  Now – don’t let that thought go by you:  this life ain’t all there is.  Do we really believe it?  Do we live like we believe it?

Do we believe it enough that we could be like the 20 Christians beheaded by ISIS last year?  Could we kneel down and refuse to deny our faith in Jesus because we KNOW this is not the end?
Could we be like Saint José Luis Sánchez del Río – our NEWEST official saint in the Catholic Church – canonized on Oct 16th by Pope Francis.  He died 88 years ago at the age of 14, and his story should be memorized by every man, woman, and child in the Americas… because his story is our story.

In 1914, A VERY anti-Catholic government came to power in Mexico. The church opposed some of the things they wanted to do, so they did everything they could to abolish Catholicism. They closed churches and demolished them.  It became illegal for the Church to run a school…which by-the-way is still true in Mexico.  The priests went into hiding. In some places the Mass was outlawed altogether and priests and nuns were forbidden to wear their religious garb.  A resistance rose up and among them was Jose Luis – he was an altar boy before the priest in his town was hung in the church.  He aided the Cristeros – the resistance fighters – until he was taken hostage and tortured.  Finally, they filleted his feet and made him walk several miles on gravel to stand by his open grave.  One last time, he was given the chance to renounce his faith… but he replied, “VIVA CRISTO REY”…long live Christ the King… and he was then martyred.

What gives people like him the courage to withstand that kind of torture and pressure?  Only FAITH can do that – faith that this life is just a shadow of what is to come.  It’s a kind of hope that drives them on to the end.

That same hope lives in every one of us – doesn’t it?  Most of us have lost a loved one in our life.  Can we even imagine facing that death or our own death if we DIDN’T have that faith in a resurrection? 

Particularly in this month of November, when we just celebrated the feast of all Souls, We take great comfort in knowing that God is the God of the LIVING, not the dead .  So when we say “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, we can also say the God of Tim, the God of Tom, the God of every one of those people represented in the book of rememberence.  We WILL see them again, because
…God is not the God of the Dead – but the God of the Living.

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