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Friday, 4 November 2016

Homily for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, CSSp



2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5, Luke 20:27-38

On the Gospel, Belief in the Resurrection

A certain foreign missionary in an Africa village was charged with translating the New Testament into the local language. In his good will, this missionary saw this as an opportunity to modernise the New Testament so as not to pass over to the Africans what he saw as the “antiquated and superstitious” world-view of the Bible. So he decided to remove from the translation every reference to spiritual beings other than God and the Holy Spirit. Evil spirits and angels, he argued, made no sense in the civilised world of today. An African priest working with him tried to convince him that the spiritual is part and parcel of both the biblical and African world-views and should therefore not be thrown out, but he would not listen to him. One day this missionary went to his favourite Christian community for Sunday service and right there before his very eyes, one of his “best” converts in the community began to act funny. She began swaying uncontrollably to the rhythm of the drums and stopped only when the music stopped. The young woman was visibly embarrassed with this development as she struggled in vain to keep herself from swaying. Everybody in the congregation understood this behaviour to be the first signs of spirit possession.


After the service, the people brought the young woman to the priest and said, “Father, what do we do?” The priest, who was in a state of shock himself, reached into his pockets and found aspirin tablets. “Give this to her,” he said, “and let me know how she feels after some days.” He came back to the mission house and literally fell sick and was unable to eat as he tried to digest the experience. Of course he knew they would bring her back to him in a worse state after a few days. Scales fell from his eyes as the zealous crusader who wanted to convert Africans from “superstitious beliefs” realized that it was probably he more than they who needed a conversion.

Like this missionary, many people today think that being a modern Christian includes jettisoning the belief in spiritual beings. But what people like this do not realize is that this is not a modern thing at all. Even at the time of Jesus there were people who did not believe in spirits, in angels and in the resurrection of the dead. These people who subscribed to a certain religious and political ideology were known as the Sadducees. In today’s gospel, some Sadducees came to Jesus and wanted to prove to him how absurd it is for any reasonable person to believe in the resurrection. They came up with the story of seven brothers who were all in turn married to the same woman and asked Jesus, “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her” (Luke 20:33). Jesus replied that it was impossible to understand the life of the resurrection in terms of the standards of the present life since in the life to come there would be no need for anyone to marry, to start with.
Notice that the problem of the Sadducees has to do with how things are in the resurrection life whereas Jesus’ response has to do with the why of the resurrection. There is a resurrection because God is God of the living. God has created us for life and not for ultimate extinction. God does not blow us into life like bubbles, here today, gone tomorrow. No, God gifts us with life even after this earthly existence is over.

If there is one belief that the men and women of our world need today it is the belief in the resurrection. Why? Because it is the effective antidote to the infectious disease of materialism. The story is told of an American tourist who paid the 19th century Polish rabbi Hofetz Chaim a visit. Astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books, a table and a bench, the tourist asked, “Rabbi, where is your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled tourist. “But I’m only a visitor here. I’m only passing through.” “So am I,” said Hofetz Chaim.

Let us thank God today for revealing to us the mystery of the resurrection. Let us reaffirm our belief in the life of the world to come, since this is the most effective means to escape the stranglehold of materialism in our lives here on earth. Do we understand exactly how it will be in the life of the resurrection. Certainly, not. For we are talking about “what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

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