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32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 10, 2019


Homilia en Español

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By Deacon Jim Hinnerschitz

 

I had the privilege to be at the Confirmation Mass this past Wednesday and serve alongside Fr. Ed Fitzgerald, Fr. Oscar and Deacon Jeff.  It was even more of a privilege to witness up close the young people renewing their Baptismal promises and then being sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The joy in each of the young people’s faces as they were confirmed was amazing to witness.  Fr. Ed told the young people that their mission was to become saints on their journey through life and to their ultimate destination – heaven.  It is their faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that will get them there.  Fr. Oscar also told those that were confirmed that this is not a graduation from the Church; instead this was the beginning of a new phase in their lives, faith journey and relationship with Jesus – and how the parish needs them to continue to be a part of the St. James community.


This is true for all of us – the parish needs each of us and we also need each other.  The scripture readings today remind us of how important it is to have a deep-rooted faith in God and the belief in resurrection.  Our parish community is an important part of our faith journey and each of us brings many different gifts to be shared.  Together we can grow our faith, make a difference in our community and have hope in life everlasting with our Lord and Savior.


In the first reading from 2 Maccabees we hear of the courage, hope and faith of the seven brothers and then their mother who were tortured to death for not relinquishing their belief in God.  Courage to face the cruelty they had to endure and never give up their belief in their God and creator.  Hope that God would grant them peace and safe passage to his heavenly kingdom.  And, their conviction in the resurrection of the dead; which enabled them to remain faithful to their belief in God their creator and never waiver in their beliefs even until death. 


This nameless Old Testament family prefigures the Christian family.  Just look at how holy, fearless and faithful a Christian family can be when united with the Lord and one another and deeply grounded in faith in Jesus’ Resurrection and our hope for resurrection from the dead.  This Old Testament family loved God and each other so much that all seven brothers and their mother suffered and died so as to be faithful to the Lord.  They were surely a family of eight saints and are a model for having true faith in the resurrection.


Not all Jews at the time of Jesus believed in the resurrection of the dead.  The Sadducees were one such group and that is the pretext for posing their absurd question to Jesus in today’s Gospel.  Jesus’ answer is concise and to the point, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”  Jesus is referring to the story of Moses, who encounters God in the burning bush.  God reveals his name to Moses as “I am…the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  The point Jesus makes is that God did not say, “I was their God,” but that “I am their God.”  They are still alive because God is the God of the living, not of the dead.  The very name of God “I AM” continues to hold them in existence.  They are eternally alive because of God’s eternal “I AM.”  God’s name is the assurance that our faithful departed are alive in God.  At Home with the Word.


The first reading and the Gospel are a stark contrast between those who believe in the resurrection and those who do not.  The seven brothers and their mother were willing to die for their beliefs, because they hoped to be together again through their belief in a living God.  The Gospel passage this week reminds us that while there are those who do not believe in the resurrection; we have a God of the living and that through Jesus’ resurrection we have the hope of being with him in eternity.  We are a resurrection people and Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our faith and our hope in life everlasting with Jesus.
In today’s second reading St. Paul challenges the Thessalonians to remain faithful to Jesus and God the Father.  St. Paul tells them that “the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.” And “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”  These words of St. Paul have relevance today, just as they did two thousand years ago.  All we need is faith the size of a mustard seed and desire a relationship with our Lord and Savior.  Faith in God will protect us from the snares of the evil one.


How do we grow our faith in the resurrected Jesus?  Through our personal prayer life.  Through time spent in Eucharistic Adoration.  Through frequent use of the sacrament of Reconciliation.  Through community at Mass each week with our fellow Christians and with Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist.


How do we live out our faith?  Through our actions.  Taking care of the family God has entrusted to us.  Ensuring that our children and grandchildren are brought up in the faith.  By helping others who are less fortunate then we are.  By being that light to others that only see darkness and sadness in their life.  We live out our faith by showing love to all and following in the steps of Jesus.


How do we help others have a relationship with Jesus and grow their faith?  By going in peace to love and serve the Lord.  Said another way; show love to others, treat them with respect and show them the way to the Lord.  By going and announcing the Gospel of the Lord.  You don’t have to be a theologian to announce the Gospel to others.  This is more about living out the Gospel message we hear each week in our everyday actions.  By not judging others who don’t think or believe as we do.  By praying for them and offering them the peace that we have through our Lord Jesus Christ.


The ultimate proof of the resurrection is the Lord Jesus and his victory over death when he rose from the dead.  Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he exclaimed: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)  Jesus asks us the same question.  Do we believe in the resurrection and in the promise of eternal life with God?  Jesus came to restore Paradise and everlasting life for us.  The Holy Spirit reveals to us the eternal truths of God’s enduring love and the abundant life he desires to share with us for all eternity.  We have only begun to taste the first-fruits!  Do we live now in the joy and hope of the life of the age to come? (Laudate)


The more we hold fast to these truths, the less we will fear death.  Rather than looking at it as an ending, we will view it more as a passageway into a new and better life. 
This doesn’t mean that we won’t feel some apprehension and anxiety along the way.  After all, we really don’t know what heaven will be like.  But, we can choose to trust in God’s promises.  We can believe that if we follow the Lord today, our tomorrow will be brighter than we can possibly imagine. (The Word Among Us)


Let’s try to me more like the seven brothers and their mother from today’s first reading in Maccabees – and have the faith and courage to face whatever life deals us knowing that our risen Lord (Jesus) and his Father will take care of us now and in eternity.
Let’s remember in a special way this weekend all veterans (past and living) who served our country with courage and faith.  We thank them for the many freedoms we enjoy.  May the Lord bless each of them today and always.

 

 

By Deacon Tim Papa

Several years ago, I saw a picture in a newspaper. It was a photo of a father holding the body of his dead son. I don’t remember the circumstances, other than the boy had died in a bombing somewhere overseas, maybe the Middle East, or it might have been Iraq or Afghanistan. What I do remember was the look in the face of the father. The look of pure anguish on his face, the eyes filled with sorrow and loss, his embrace of the lifeless body – it all struck me viscerally. My own son was about the same age at the time as the boy appeared to be, and I could relate to the father in a way that I never could before myself becoming a father. It was love and loss pictured in a profound image.


The Gospel reading is about how the Sadducees were trying to trap Jesus into admitting that the concept of heaven did not make sense – just imagine a woman being married to multiple men. Of course, what they meant is that it did not make sense in the human terms that they were using as a basis for what heaven must be. Heaven must, in their eyes, be limited in time and space as the world we know it is.


To really understand today’s Gospel, one must know that there were several divisions within the Jewish community at the time of Christ, the two largest of which were the Sadducees and the Pharisees. One of the differences in beliefs was that the Pharisees believed in life after death and the Sadducees believed there was no afterlife. Now this is a major disagreement, especially among people that were worshiping together in the same temple in Jerusalem. I would think it would be similar to Catholics and Baptists having a Eucharistic celebration together where both sides have fundamental disagreements on the nature of the sacrament. It must have been awkward to say the least.


Jesus doesn’t answer the Sadducees' question of whose wife the woman will be because the question doesn’t make sense. Just as someone that is looking through a frosted-glass window gets some idea of what might be beyond the glass but cannot know exactly what, so we get an idea of what heaven and God are like through readings like today’s Gospel but we truly won’t know until we get there.


The Church teaches that the existence of God is provable through logic, philosophical reasoning, and natural theology. This tells us that there is a God, but does not tell us the nature of God – this can only be known through His revelation of Himself to us throughout history, especially as laid out in the Old and New Testaments. His most complete revelation of Himself is the incarnation, where the Son becomes man and reveals the love of God for His creation. God is not bound by time or space, and neither is His love. Living forever in His love, looking upon His face, knowing with exactness God's nature, being able to love God and neighbor perfectly, is heaven.


Christ teaches in today’s Gospel not that marriage is bad, but that marriage in heaven is not necessary. When we love perfectly, free from the selfishness of our earthly life, we love God and neighbor fully and therefore a special relationship with another has no meaning. When we have a deep love of someone special on earth – a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend – we yearn for that love to go on forever. What we must realize is that in heaven that love does go on forever, but it won’t be special because we’ll have an even greater love for all.


Do we love God so much that we would have an intense, heart-wrenching grief if we found that we would spend eternity away from that love? Like the father of the dead son in the newspaper photo, he loved his son so much when he was alive that the very idea of no longer being able to love him on earth has sent him to a kind of hell, which in my mind gets at an idea of what the actual hell must be like, if we look through a frosted-glass window.


Jesus in the Gospel is telling us that we are God’s children, that His love is that of a Father, and heaven is spent in perfect love of God and one another. If this is so, marriage doesn’t matter, all of the petty cares of this world don’t matter, death doesn’t matter. Let us emulate the saints, who had a love of God so intense that the ideal of separation from the love was the hell that was unthinkable.


We throw the word “love” around a lot. The English language is very rich language due to its roots in many languages and cultures that impacted the British Isles over the centuries. However, when it comes to the word “love” it is extremely poor compared with other languages that have two or three words or more to describe different situations. I love ice cream. I love my wife. I love my son. I love my job. I love my neighbor. I love God. I would love to look like George Clooney. A word that can encompass all of these ideas and situations becomes so flexible that its use in a conversation becomes problematic and results in miscommunication. Does the hearer truly understand the real meaning of the speaker when the word “love” is used. We must all think deeply about this question, because the rewards of eternal life are contingent on our ability to obey Christ's great commandment to love God and one another. This requires the study of scripture, since it is there that we find out how to do this. Paul insists in the second reading that God would always be there for us, helping us along the way. God was there for the brothers in the first reading, rewarding them for their love and devotion. We must figure this out, since our ability to love here on earth will ensure our ability to do so after this world ends.


As we continue with the celebration of the Eucharist, let us cooperate with God’s grace of communion, of being one in love with God and with other members of His Church. Let us peer through the unclear glass of our imperfect senses with the foreshadowing of the kingdom that Christ has given us, and resolve to make our love as close to heaven as we can here on earth.


    By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

    Our God is God of the living for to him all are alive.  How can the Gospel say that all are alive for God?  We have funerals quite frequently and we can recall friends and loved ones who have died – how are these dead alive in God?  Keep in mind that God has no past or future – all is now for God.  That means for us, Abraham died in the distant past but Abraham is alive in the now of God.  

    That all are alive in God has implications for the life of the church.  In former times, priest were vested in black for funerals because of the mourning associated with death.  Now vestments are white in honor of resurrection – because in God all are alive.  In former times, those who committed suicide were not buried in consecrated cemeteries.  Now we do not condemn these persona but commend them to God, for in God all are alive.  Similarly, in former times we believed that babies who died without baptism went to limbo – a place of happiness but not the beatific vision.  Now we simply commend these babies to the mercy of God because in God all are alive.   

    All have life because God wills to share his life as a gift.  Do I recognize my life as a gift and live in gratitude and generosity?  In gratitude and generosity I offer God my thoughts, my will, my strength, my time, my abilities, my possessions, my family and friends, my work, and my recreation.  Saint John Paul II adopted the saying, All Yours – this comes from the total consecration to God through the Blessed Virgin Mary as taught by St. Louis DeMontfort.

     

    This means we offer ourselves to God in our vocations.  In my life, I pray that I may be the best husband, father, and deacon possible.  But along with prayers for strength and guidance, I invest in my vocation.  How can I put the good of my wife before my own interests?  How can I love and cherish my beloved as I promised on my wedding day?  How can I bring joy and creativity to our life together?  A strong marriage does not happen by chance – it happens by choice and by effort. Sometimes a preacher preaches to himself and allows others to listen in.

     

    Our God is the God of the living – how can I become fully alive?  The person who is fully alive is not needy but places himself or herself at the service of his or her neighbor.  A person who is fully alive minimizes resentment and hard feelings toward family and friends and is quick to apologize for any offense given.  A person who is fully alive is active in his parish and community, placing his or her gifts at the service of others.

     

    In a story called, A Wonderful Life. George Bailey grows up in a small town but desires to leave his hometown to become a master builder of roads, bridges, and grand buildings.  He wants to shake the dust of his town from his feet to go on to do great things.   Events conspire against him, however, when his father dies and he is compelled to run the loan office which is the family business.  Then a financial depression strikes and he is forced to save the business against an unscrupulous banker, Mr. Potter.  Then war breaks out and he must guard the home front as others go off to war.  Finally, his uncle loses a bank deposit just when the business is being audited; it means ruin and scandal for the company.  George brings a life-insurance policy with $10,000 to the bank owner, Potter, as security against the missing money.  Potter comments that George is worth more dead than alive.  Despondent, George goes to the river bridge to hurl himself into the water to end his life.  Before he can jump, however, his Guardian angel, Clarence, takes human form and jumps into the river himself so that George will save him.  As their clothes are drying in the hut of the bridge-keeper, George tells Clarence he wishes he were never born.  Clarence says, “Oh, you must not say that, your life is a gift.”  George, in his darkest hour cannot see this so Clarence grants his wish – George receives a vision of a world where he was never born. 

     

    George finds his brother died as boy because George was not there to save him when he fell through the ice into the lake. George finds another boy died because he was not there to correct the druggist when he sent the wrong pills for an illness – the druggist was in prison.  George finds his mother to be a bitter old woman who tells him her brother was committed to an insane asylum because George was not there to care for him and keep him engaged in the family business.  George’s wife is a spinster who never married and so George’s children were never born.  The town is a seedy place where people pay outrageous rent for run-down dwellings because the loan office does not help them get their own home.  George learns that over a thousand sailors died on a transport ship because his brother, who died when he fell through the ice, was not there to save them from the attack of an enemy plane.  George, finally realizing how much he meant to the people around him, returns to the river and pleads with God, “I want to live, I want to live . . .”  Then God grants that George return to the life he was ready to throw away.  Going home, George finds his wife organized an appeal and people, grateful for what George had done for them, pledged five times the value of the missing bank deposit.  My dear brothers and sisters, do you need a visit from your guardian angel to realize you have a wonderful life?  Recognize that your life is a gift from God – then offer your life to God as a gift.  Amen.