Start Rising Now-Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 11/10/13-Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,ARCWP
Celebrating Resurrection Faith in the Good Shepherd Community
The smiling woman in the middle is Linda Maybin. She has shared her story of turning her life around. “I thank my children and family,including my church family for showering the love on me that helped me turn my life around”.
It is love that helps us rise again.
The readings for this Sunday lead us into the heart of our faith and to the secret places of our hearts where hopes and doubts and love are stored. They are about death, and life, and rising again. They are about both consolation and hope and they are about living our faith-walking the walk no matter what the challenges are.
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 records the horrific deaths of seven passionate and courageous brothers and their mother who were willing to die rather than break their covenant with God through the Law. The book of Second Maccabees, written about 110 BC, is a series of facts and at times commentaries and legends that emphasize the hopes and sufferings of persecuted believers under the reign of the Syrians. Jews tried hard to hold on to the Law as their lifeline while enduring the onslaught of demands for acculturation to pagan beliefs. The brothers are firm in the hope of resurrection and eternal life.
The resurrection is mentioned in the Bible for the first time here. (It is also mentioned in Daniel and the Wisdom books). Unlike Greek thinking that places the spiritual above the material and physical, the Jews did not separate the concepts of body and soul. Last Sunday’s reading from the book of Wisdom (11:22-26) tells us that all that God made God loved and lived in and kept alive. God lives in us body and soul, hence the belief in afterlife, eternal life, and bodily resurrection. Not all Jews believed in the resurrection. In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees did and the Sadducees did not.
As our Gospel for this Sunday (Luke 20:27-38) shows Jesus firmly held, and then fulfilled, the belief in resurrection. The Sadducees tried to trap Jesus by giving him a riddle that to them meant resurrection is ridiculous-about the plight of a woman who married seven brothers according to the Law-who would be her husband in heaven? Jesus deftly showed them that heaven is not a replay of life on earth but a new play-one where there is no need for marrying as life is eternal. Both men and women are the children of God and the children of the resurrection and have eternal life. He emphasizes that even according to Moses, God is the God of the living, “All are alive to God” (verse 38).
The letter of Paul to the Thessalonians is written to encourage and console this new and persecuted church made up of some Jews and many Gentiles. He urges them to live the Gospel and work to spread the good news and not sit around brooding about the end of time and hoping for the return of Christ. He assures them that God is faithful and will strengthen them.
We need to know that when times are hard for whatever reasons, God does strengthen us. When times are hard there is also a hope that someday things will be better-someday and somewhere. And yet in our hearts we long for it to be better now and not “pie in the sky bye and bye”. The hopes I hear are: someday there will be peace on earth and peace right here so drive by shootings and crazy folks with big guns stop all this killing; someday I will get a good job; someday I will be poor no more; someday I will have my own home; someday I can pay my bills; someday I can afford health care for myself and my children and someday my children will have all the opportunities that I didn’t have, and especially now- “please God, don’t let them cut food stamps”. The someday needs to be now and our work is to make this happen. The life God promises needs to start now-for ALL of God’s children.
For others, the torture faced is not because of religious persecution though that clearly exists in our global village, the torture is enduring an addiction or a horrific illness ourselves or with those we love dearly. We pray that this will end someday. And we pray that someday is now-that the cure is found, that the treatment helps, that the suffering will stop. Sometimes we pray for death to bring life and sometimes we pray for life to be restored and death conquered. And when death separates us from our loved ones we need desperately to know that they are still alive to God and that, still living, they are with us too. Jesus reassures us of this-“God is the God of the living…all are alive to God”. In dying we join our loving God in the Eternal Now.
Yet there are so many ways that we can be dead even as our bodies are technically alive. We can live in depression so deep that we might as well be dead. We can live in so much fear-of the outside world, of other people, of danger and harm and even of our own potential that we stay fixed and do not move one inch. We can give up and not try to climb up a higher rung on the ladder when we’ve gotten messages that we belong on the bottom. We need to rise. I think of the poem Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. (Excerpted here.
” You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies.
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust,
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Our rising now is as important as rising “someday”. What is holding us back? We can become so self- absorbed that the Other barely exists or exists for our own ends. We can live in sensory deprivation cut off from the natural world and held captive by the machines and games that seem like life to us but are a complete artificial world. We can make our worlds so small that people who are not like us in looks or beliefs are exiled. We can live only for ourselves while our neighbors are in need of our love and assistance. We can think we are alive and living the Gospel when we are only pleasing ourselves. We can open or close the door on love. We can be so lonely that we build a wall that keeps people out and loneliness, which is at least familiar, in. We can talk the talk and not know how to walk the walk. We can know how perfectly well, but not exert the energy to really walk it. There are many ways to be alive and many ways to be dead. This applies to nations and cultures and churches and faith communities as well as to individuals. We need to pinch ourselves and if we have died we need to rise again.
When I faced major surgery for a rare slow growing stomach cancer last February, I stared death in the face. I was frightened. I could not control my trembling. Lying down on the operating table, I said to God, I am in Your arms. And I rested because I was. I was so thankful to rise up off that sick bed and to live again. I was overwhelmed by the love of those all around me and knew deeply the love of God. Some things are the “new normal” for me, but I welcome life with a new zest and a new purpose to share the good news. And this is that news:the love of God in Christ lifts us up; the love of God is forever. God loves us like we’ve never been loved before, and that is for always. We are alive to God now and forever. Our deceased loved ones are alive with God in the eternal Now. When we die, we will live again, we will rise again. Jesus the Christ showed us how to love and how to live, how to die and how to rise. Let us shake off death and rise again-NOW!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,ARCWP Co-Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community FM,FL