Saint Mary of the Angels homilies and reflections

Homily, November 10, 2013, The Kingdom of God, Fr. Ken Hughes, SJ

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St. Mary of the Angels, Roxbury     

Sunday  OT 32 C        11/10/13

Maccabees  II  7.1-2, 9-14;  Thessalonians II 2.16-3.5;  Luke 20.27-38

 

My Brothers and Sisters,

 

We have recently celebrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  In the words of the second Eucharistic prayer, we ask God to “remember … our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy.”  We have prayed to saints and we have prayed for sinners. November seems to be a month of martyrs and saints who have influenced our life very much:  The Jewish Krystallnacht martyrs, the martyrs of El Salvador, Miguel Pro and Etty Hillesum, but also Cardinal Bernardin, Sojourner Truth and Dorothy Day.  And, now, throughout this month we continue to remember our loved ones, our personal saints, as we light these candles by the altar.   

 

Why November for this remembrance?  Perhaps, the people of old, whether pagan or Christian, saw November, with its falling leaves, as the season for all dying.  Do we not feel that, too?

 

Joyce Rupp, in her poem, “The Ache of Autumn in Us” writes of autumn,

 

“It is a season to hold the trees close,

to stand with them in their grieving.

It is a time to open my inner being

to the misty truths of my own goodbyes.”

 

Thus, we remember our family members and our friends who have said, “Goodbye” to us.  And we know that, some day, we, too, will have to make our own goodbyes.

 

Joyce ends her poem, saying,

 

And so I begin my fallow vigil,

remembering the truth of the ages:

Unless the wheat seed dies

it cannot sing a new birth.

Unless summer gives in to autumn

Springtime will never embrace me.”

 

Sadly, the Sadducees of today’s gospel did not believe in this “springtime.”

They could not “sing a new birth.”  For them, life ended in this world, and that is why it was so important to beget children to carry on the memory of their name.  What else was left for them?  And so, they presented Jesus with this ridiculous story of seven brothers, one after the other, marrying the same woman.  Whose wife would she be, if there were such a thing as a resurrection?  They think that they have trapped Jesus.  But, it was they themselves who were trapped.  They did not understand their own Scripture where God, at the burning bush, named Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, therefore, the God of the living.  They also had no imagination.  They could not imagine an afterlife in which the human personality would be the same, but, oh so different.  Their imagination could not embrace an infinite existence enfolded by and into an infinite Love.

 

But, how do we imagine the afterlife?  How do we envision resurrection? 

 

A few years ago, a friend of mine lost his son in a car accident.  Weeping, he said to me one day, “What I fear most is that when I die, I may not recognize my son.”  Immediately, I responded. “But he will recognize you.”

I don’t know where that response came from.  Consciously, I did not want to sweep away his fear as if of no consequence, but deep down I knew that heaven must be about a recognition and relationship that spans time and eternity. 

 

I am told that, at a Mass in El Salvador, commemorating all the dead victims of the brutal military dictatorship, as each deceased person’s name was called out for remembrance, a member of his or her family responded, “Presente,” – “Present.”  Hundreds of names were called out.  Hundreds of voices responded, “Presente.”

 

In fact, is there really a separation between this life and the afterlife?  True, we pass over the threshold of death.  True, here, we experience absence, sometimes, painfully so.  But, are there not times of presence too?  Do we not feel, in mysterious ways, the presence of our loved ones?  And, are there not times when that presence has been felt more strongly than their earthly presence?

 

When Matthew, Mark, and Luke expressed Jesus’ resurrection, they did so, either through angels appearing like lightning or through men in dazzling garments – figures from the other world.  And all these figures had a similar message: “Do not be afraid.”  “Do not be amazed.”  And proclaimed: “He has been raised just as he said.”  In Luke’s Gospel, they also asked, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? …  Remember what he said.” Then, Luke added, “They remembered his words.”  And remembering brought hope and joy.

 

When Jesus, then, appeared, He was the same but different.  He was recognized and not recognized.  He ate fish but also passed through doors and walls.  He was here and there at the same time. All these appearances were only hints and glimpses of afterlife.

 

Personally, I believe that all the beauty of this world  -- and I have experienced so much beauty here -- is only a glimpse of the beauty of heaven.  Personally, I believe in the resurrection of all creation, not just of human beings.  I believe that all creation, all matter, will be transformed and brought into a harmony and oneness, and will be enfolded in God’s love.   And that is why we must take care of all this world and love all people.

 

“The Kingdom of God is among you,” Jesus said.  It is not fully present now, but that is what we work for all together: the saints in heaven, the sufferers in purgatory, and, we, the strugglers on earth.  All together, we are moving with God and to God. All together, we will come to a happiness which the Sadducees could not dream of or imagine.

 

                                             

                                                        Kenneth J. Hughes, S.J.

                                                        Brighton, Mass.  11/10/13 

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