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Friday, 4 November 2016

Reflection/Homily: Thirty-Second (32nd) Sunday in Ordinary Time of the Year C



Theme: Becoming Children of the Resurrection
Luke, the author of today’s gospel reading addressed his Gospel to the Gentile converts who had a similar Greek cultural background with him. The belief in the immortality of the soul was not foreign to the Greeks because several Greek scholars like Pythagoras and Plato held such beliefs in their philosophical doctrines. For Pythagoras, the soul is immortal and returns to life through a process of transmigration which could include returning to life through an animal. For Plato, the soul is also immortal and returns to life through the process of reincarnation. In relating the encounter Jesus had with the Sadducees, Luke uses a familiar Greek belief to divert the attention of the early converts from a mere belief in the immortality of the soul to a superior belief in the resurrection of the dead. 

Today, in our own cultural background, Luke’s message is not irrelevant for us. We have so many doctrines emphasizing the immortality of the soul in different ways. For example, some Igbos of Nigeria still hold the belief in reincarnation as a proof of the immortality of the soul. Luke’s message is therefore, to focus our minds on a greater goal by motivating us not just to aspire to be immortal in the land of oblivion but to aspire to be sons and daughters of God at the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees we encountered in the gospel reading (Luke 20:27-38) were a Jewish sect who among other things, recognized only the first five books of the Bible attributed to Moses (Pentateuch) as the Word of God. As a result, they did not accept beliefs not emphasized in the Pentateuch such as the existence of spirits, angels and the resurrection of the dead.

These Sadducees questioned Jesus on a Jewish tradition known as the Levirate law handed over by Moses. This law expects a man to marry the childless widow of his deceased brother in order to maintain his name. In their question, they presented a case where seven brothers who all died before having children, were married to the same woman. They asked which of the brothers will be the woman’s husband at the resurrection. They posed this question not to be clarified but to rubbish the belief in the resurrection of the dead. But Jesus’ response made it clear that life after death is not exactly as physical existence. Instead, life after death is superior because it would be an existence beyond limitation. Those considered worthy of the resurrection from the dead do not marry for they will be like angels, ever immortal.

Thus, Jesus is encouraging us to strive to be sons and daughters of the resurrection because at the resurrection, we shall be completely transformed and glorified. In order to do this, the first reading (2 Mac. 7:1-2, 8-14) presents us with the example of the seven brothers who were murdered on account of their fidelity to the Jewish law. The relevance of this reading for us is not so much about eating pork or not but about having a value which we can die for. These brothers considered the threat of a violent death insufficient to make them denounce their values. They believed that their fidelity and perseverance will merit them a better place at the resurrection of the dead. This is not only an example for us to follow but also a challenge.

In interpreting the passage, we may find ourselves represented in the seven brothers while the society is represented in the king and all societal ills represented in the pork. How many of us will prefer to be martyred than to violate our values? Do we still have values at all? Are virginity, chastity, fidelity, truth, obedience, faith, hope and love still part of our religious and moral values? As we approach the end of the liturgical year, let us join St. Paul in the second reading (2 Thess. 2:16-3:5) to pray that the Lord may direct our hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ so that we may be qualified to rise with him at the last day for our God is God of the living and not of the dead. Happy Sunday. Be assured that God loves you.                         
Uwakwe Chibuike MFC

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