St. Mary of the Angels, Roxbury
Sunday OT 32
Maccabees II 7.1-2,
Thessalonians II 2.16-3.5; Luke
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
Why November for this remembrance? Perhaps, the people of old, whether
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
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
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
presence of our loved ones? And, are
there not times when that presence has been felt more strongly than their
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
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.