32 Sunday C: Resurrection

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

Eternal Life
Over the triple doorway of the Cathedral of Milan are some carvings. One is a beautiful wreath of roses and underneath are these words: “All that pleases is just for a moment.” Over another is a cross and underneath: “All that troubles is just for a moment.” But over the great central archway leading to the main aisle is the inscription: “That only is important which is eternal.”
Cuthbert Johnson in ‘Quotes and Anecdotes’
In today’s gospel Jesus is approached by some Sadducees who question him about the resurrection. Like so many of us, the Sadducees clung to their own way of thinking which led them to be religiously conservative, opposing any doctrine that did not fit into their way of thinking and living. They believed only in the present life, they enjoyed the present without any worry or concern about the afterlife and hence they questioned the resurrection. In today’s gospel they pose a tricky rabbinical question to Jesus to catch him. They attempt to ridicule the resurrection of the dead by recalling the Mosaic Law on levirate marriage, which stated that if a man dies and has no son, and therefore no legal heir, his brother must marry the widow. In this way the continuity of the family would be guaranteed. The Sadducees develop their example to absurdity in instancing seven brothers each of whom marry the same woman, but each of whom die childless. Jesus in his response elevates the discussion to give a deeper understanding of the resurrected life. Firstly, he said we should not look at the afterlife from our human and limited perspective. Life there is quite different. Secondly, since the Sadducees held only to the Law of Moses, Jesus returned to that citing the remarkable incident of Moses encountering God in the burning bush where he identifies himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. When Moses heard from God, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were long dead, yet God said “I am the God of these three patriarchs” not “I was” but “I am!” their God. So Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still lived! So the creative power of God brings about life after death! The Sadducees became silent. Jesus had showed them that God was the God of life, and God of the living, and those who believe live forever.

God of the living
An old man, an accomplished artist, was applying the finishing touches to a bronze sculpture. He kept filing and polishing every scraping little surface of his masterpiece. “When will it be done?” asked an observer. “Never” came the reply. “I just keep working and working until they come and take it away.” So also is life. It is a pilgrimage; it is an ongoing process. Life is blessed when lived well; it is a gift to be used every day. For what makes life precious and worth living is not years we live but the deeds we do. All our dear departed ones are in the hands of God, they are living persons: living with God.
Antony Kolencherry in ‘Living the Word’

Film –The Day After

When the movie The Day After was shown on television in 1983, it caused quite a controversy. This was because it was focused on the ultimate what if- the event of a global nuclear war. What if the population of Kansas City is instantly reduced to vaporized silhouettes; what if the blistered wounded are doomed to die; what if some survivors are surrounded by radioactive fallout that settles like a fine white dust all over the earth? The Day After was intended primarily to provoke serious reflection and discussion about nuclear disarmament. But it also provokes questions about our faith. Would a good God allow such a terrifying evil to happen? Why do we have to die at all? Is there really a resurrection? –Today’s readings suggest some answers to these questions not in the sense of complete explanations, but in the sense of strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen Son of the Living God. We don’t get a satisfying answer from the Scriptures to the question, “How can a good God allow such terrible evils like the slaughter of the seven sons of the Maccabees family? Or the death of innocent people in terrorist attacks? But we do get an affirmation of our faith in an afterlife. No matter how terrifying death may be, whether at the hands of terrorists or nuclear weapons, life will be restored. No matter how much destruction a nuclear holocaust may cause, the day after will never be the last day. A new heaven and a new earth will appear because our God is a God of the living and not of the dead. With Christian faith and hope we are strong enough to survive any today, and, if need be, any day after.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

Courage in the face of death
There are two kinds of courage. The first is loud angry and assertive. This is associated with the battlefield. The second is quiet, serene and unassertive. Even so, it is unflinching and impervious to blandishments and threats. We see a heroic example of the second kind of courage in the First Reading. But there are some examples closer to our own times. The following happened in a Jewish ghetto in Eastern Europe during the Second World War. The German authorities appointed a man by the name of Ephraim to the post of president of the Jewish Council. One day they asked Ephraim to submit a list to them of 30 people for slave labour. Ephraim went away and thought about it. Eventually he came back and presented a list to the German authorities. When they examined the list, instead of finding 30 names, they found one name written 30 times. That one name was Ephraim’s own. Ephraim knew that in doing what he did he was signing his own death warrant. Yet he refused to betray one of his brothers or sisters. Before courage like this, one feels poor.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

A Shining Witness
Shahbaz Bhatti was born to Catholic parents in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab. His father was an army officer and then became a teacher like his mother. The couple had six children, five boys and one girl. His father, who died after a protracted illness, was the main source of strength for Shahbaz. In 2002 Shahbaz formed the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance and became its first leader. He also joined Benazir Bhutto’s Party and such was the respect in which he was held that he was appointed Minorities Minister that same year. In his acceptance speech he said he was accepting it ‘to help the oppressed, down-trodden and marginalized, and to send a message of hope to the people living a life of disappointment, disillusionment and despair’. He went on, ‘Jesus is the nucleus of my life and I want to be his true follower through my actions by sharing the love of God with poor, needy and suffering people.’ And he was as good as his word. Christians make up only 1.5 percent of Pakistan’s 185 million people. He decided to campaign against the country’s draconian blasphemy law, knowing that in all probability it would cost him his life. It was his defence of one woman in particular, Mrs. Bibi, that sealed his death warrant. Mrs. Bibi was falsely accused of insulting Mohammed, and was sentenced to death by hanging. Bhatti’s support for Mrs. Bibi was the last straw for his enemies. After a visit to his elderly mother, his body was riddled with bullets in Islamabad on March 2, 2011. He was only 42. Later a video he had made in view of such an eventuality was released. In it he said, ‘I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to protect their rights. I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us.’ Everybody loves life. Bhatti loved life too, but he did not cling to it at all costs. For him the real life was eternal life. Faith in eternal life enabled him to sacrifice his life for Christ.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

1.     Worshiping at our own altars 

A writer had a dream in which she visited hell. 

To her surprise, this hell had no infinite fire or bottomless burning chasms of tormented souls.  It was not like the hell she had pictured at all -- in fact, it was rather “church-like.”  She was led through a labyrinth of dark, dank passages lined with the doors to many cells.  Each cell she passed was identical.  The central piece of furniture in each cell was an altar and before each altar knelt a sickly, weak, greenish-gray, ghostly figure in intense prayer and adoration.

“But whom are they worshipping?” the visitor asked her guide.

“Themselves,” was the reply.  “This is pure self-worship.  In their worship of their own beings, in placing their hopes and dependence on themselves and their own dreams alone, they are feeding on themselves and exhausting their own spirits.  That is why they look so sickly and emaciated.”

The writer was appalled and saddened by row upon row of cells, small prisons for their pathetic, isolated inmates, who were doomed to spend eternity in solitary confinement, themselves their first, last and only object of worship. 

[Adapted from Who Walk Alone by Margaret Evening.]

God, as revealed by Christ, is not the vengeful Judge or cosmic Tyrant who takes cruel delight in our failures; the God taught by Jesus in the Gospel is the God of life, a God whose limitless love put us and all of creation in motion.  God will love us for all eternity -- but there always exists the possibility that we will refuse that love.  That refusal to accept love, the refusal to respond to it, is precisely the meaning of hell.  Hell is not a place where God puts us – it’s a place where we put ourselves.  But to become “children of the God of life” is to dismantle the hells we create and set in their places the justice, peace and forgiveness that are the building stones of the kingdom of God.   (From Connections)

2.     Andrew Greeley: 


In this story Jesus is not describing the specifics of the relationships of the genders in heaven. Attempts to elaborate a theory of how the human body behaves in heaven out of this story miss the point completely. Rather the story is about how Jesus dealt with the logic choppers and the legalists who tried to trap him by playing games with the scriptures. While Jesus won the argument, clearly he did not permanently dispose of those who use the   bible to impose there rigid ideas on everyone else.  

While some of the Fundamentalists are especially likely to do this (not all of them by any means) we are not above quoting bits of the bible or of papal documents out of context to force people to agree with us. The story today should serve as warning that Jesus doesn’t like that kind of argumentation, especially because it almost always ignores the principle them of his message, that  we are all God’s beloved children.


Once upon a time there were some parents who were upset about the soft drink machines in the high school to which their children went. Pop (or soda if you’re from a part of the country where they use that odd term) was not good for kids. It kept them from drinking things like (low fat) milk and fruit juices which were good for them. They demanded that the high school take the machines out of the school. The next thing, one of the juniors said, is that they’re going to try to take pop corn out of movie theaters. He was joking, but that was really the next item on the parents agenda.

They had closed down stores with dirty magazines, they had banned cigarette smoking in the school, now they wanted to get rid of the soft drink machines. They were determined that everyone in the school would lead healthy, wholesome lives, all the time.  They’ll go after rock music next, a freshman girl protested, you just wait.  The kids argued that they needed a little caffeine each day to keep going, indeed a lot of caffeine. We’ll make them put in a tea machine, said one of the parents. That’s all you need for a quick pick-me-up. Don’t they have anything else to do but ruin our lives,  the president of the sophomore class complained. 

So the old retired pastor, the Monsignor who had founded the school, was called in to arbitrate the matter. He suggested that the parents do volunteer work in the inner city with their kids. The parents really didn’t want to do that. So, as a compromise, he said that there should be an ice tea machine and a (low fat) milk machine and a fruit juice machine as well as the pop machine. Individual parents could tell their children what to drink and what not to drink. The parents who tried to ban the pop machine were furious. They didn’t like democracy very much. Just to show them all the kids went ape over ice tea. 

Someone has figured that if we put all of the materials in the Gospels that tell us about the life of Jesus together that it would equal about 80 pages. Yet, most of that would represent duplication, for we know that some of the Gospel writers copied from others. If, therefore you eliminate the duplication, you would have only 20 pages that tell us about Jesus life and teachings. Of those 20 pages, 13 of them deal specifically with the last week of his life. And if you separate it still further, you will discover that one-third of those 13 pages took place on Tuesday of Holy Week. Thus, in terms of sheer volume, we know far more on this day in his life than any other day. The events of that day represent a significant percentage of what we know about the man Jesus.

We know that Jesus spent Monday evening in Bethany, probably in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, since that is where he spent Sunday evening. He arose early on Tuesday morning and he and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. If you will then let your mind drift back through the pages of history, let us assume for a moment that you are living in First Century Palestine. It is the Season of the Passover and you and your family are among the thousands of religious pilgrims who have migrated to the ancient walled city of Jerusalem to participate in the religious celebration. You were there on Monday when Jesus took whip in hand and radically ran the moneychangers from the temple. It had been an eventful day.

But now it is Monday and it has come time to retire with your family. As you walk down the Villa de la Rosa you pass by the palace of the high priest, the residence of Caiaphas. You notice that a light is burning in the upper floor of this exquisite mansion. You comment to your family that Caiaphas must be working long hours to see that all of the religious festivities go on as scheduled. Yet, if you only knew what was really going on in that palace that evening. If you only knew what was taking place in that smoke filled room... 

 The ultimate insult kids dish out today is to look down their noses and snort, "Poser!" A "poser" is a "wannabe" who will "never-be." 

A "biker poser" wears a leather jacket, biker boots and drinks coffee from a Harley-Davidson mug, but has never ridden anything more powerful than a John Deere on a Saturday afternoon.

A "rocker-poser" has the tough, trashy tattoos, the black T-shirts, but doesn't know the difference between a fret and being fretful.  

A "nerd poser" can talk a "geek streak," has high scores on video games, but can't write a single line of computer code.

In short, a "poser" talks the talk, but doesn't "walk the walk."

 In the infancy of Christianity, those first generations of disciples, those first followers of the person of Jesus, engaged in dozens of fierce theological arguments over the basics of Christian faith. One of the most repeated and seemingly reasonable arguments was the assertion made by various groups that the resurrection was "real" yet "not real." The gist of all these various claims was that Jesus' appearance on earth, his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, did truly occur. But that Jesus himself only "appeared" to be human during all these events. In reality, from his "birth" through his "death," Jesus was wholly and fully divine. Jesus, in other words, was never truly human in any essential sense. Jesus was a poser... 
3.     Humans Are Not Meant For Hibernation 

The poet T. S. Eliot in his famous poem "The Wasteland," calls April the "cruelest month," because the showers of April stir up the dull and dormant roots of trees and flowers to begin bursting forth with new life instead of allowing them to remain comfortably asleep in the frozen ground of winter. Yet the sleep of tree roots and flower bulbs is the sleep of hibernation, not of rest. Trees were meant to put out green leaves; tulips were meant to push up through the soil and produce beautiful blossoms. Human beings are also meant to grow, to mature, to blossom, not to hibernate in the frozen sleep of habit or tradition or familiarity. Paul says that we were meant to grow until "we attain to the full height of the stature of Christ." 

Larry R. Kalajainen, Extraordinary Faith for Ordinary Time, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
4.     The Main Thing

A few years back I was asked to write a meditation for the back of one of our Sunday bulletin covers, and I was excited about the prospect until I took a closer look at the assigned text. It was today's text, whose message I continue to find difficult to distill into a few short paragraphs. But in the weeks prior I had come across one of Yogi Berra's picturesque sayings. Berra, you may remember, was the New York Yankees catcher back in the 1950's and '60's who in his own garbled way said some profound things, once asserting that "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."

In effect, is this not what Jesus is saying to his critics? In the life of faith, keep focused on the main thing. And what is the main thing, but to maintain and nurture our rootedness in God, to embrace life in God's kingdom, a life of compassion and grace, of peace and self-giving love, of servanthood and hope. When Jesus speaks of the God of the living, he is prodding his critics to expand their vision. In effect, says William Willimon, Jesus is saying to that group of critical Sadducees, "Your questions betray your limited point of view, your narrow frame of reference. The resurrection is not just some extension of your world. It is a whole new world, the world as God intended the world to be." It is a world in which the woman of your story is "a child of God, not a piece of property." It is a world in which each of us lives as children of the resurrection.

Joel D. Kline, Life in the Real World

5.     What's the Right Side Like?

A little girl and her father were walking on a clear, starry night. She turned to him and asked, "If the wrong side of heaven is so beautiful, what will the right side be like?"

When it comes to answering that question, we'll just have to leave it up to God, won't we?

Randy L. Hyde, Seven Weddings and a Funeral 
6.     A Theological Curveball

A certain minister has made it a policy for many years to refer "six-year-old theology questions" to his wife. Since she has taught very young children for many years, he says, she has a much better grasp than he does of how to address the questions which little kids ask.

The other day, a first-grader brought a drawing of a skeleton into class where she teaches English as a second language. The titled across the top of the drawing read "Inside of Me." It was designed to teach children that everyone has a skeleton inside of them. He unfolded it proudly and showed it to the class. One little girl from India was astounded at the thought that she and others had this scary-looking skeleton inside them, and so she pressed the issue a bit farther. "Even you got one of these inside you, Mrs. K?" The teacher replied, "Yes, I have one, too."
The next question was the theological one. "Even God got one inside him?" Now in a class made up of children from many different countries, cultures, and religious backgrounds (most of them not Christians), you can imagine that this question had the potential for major theological debate. I doubt if I'd have had the presence of mind to give the answer the teacher did; but, as usual, her expertise in six-year-old theology saved the day. "If God needs a skeleton, I'm sure he has one," she replied. "God has everything he needs." This apparently satisfied the theological curiosity of the class, and they got on with the lesson.
Asking questions is an essential part of learning. If we don't know something, we look for someone who does and we ask. The only dumb question is the one you don't ask. We learn by asking questions about what we don't know.

Larry R. Kalajainen, Extraordinary Faith for Ordinary Time, CSS Publishing Company
7.     Hypocrisy 

With tongue in cheek, Mark Twain spoke of the two-faced life we all live: I am constructed like everybody else and enjoy a compliment as well as any other fool, but I do like to have the other side presented. And there is another side. I have a wicked side. Estimable friends who know all about it would tell you and take a certain delight in telling you things that I have done and things further that I have not repented. The real life that I live, and the real life that I suppose all of you live, is a life of interior sin. That is what makes life valuable and pleasant. To lead a life of undiscovered sin! That is true joy.

Mark Twain in a speech to the Society of American Authors, November 15, 1900
8.     Who's Stupid Now?

There is an Italian legend about a master and servant.

It seems the servant was not very smart and the master used to get very exasperated with him. Finally, one day, in a fit of temper, the master said: "You really are the stupidest man I know. Here, I want you to carry this staff wherever you go. And if you ever meet a person stupider than yourself, give them this staff."

So time went by, and often in the marketplace the servant would encounter some pretty stupid people, but he never found someone appropriate for the staff. Years later, he returned to his master's home. He was shown into his master's bedroom, for the man was quite sick and in bed. In the course of their conversation the master said: "I'm going on a journey soon."

"When will you return?", asked the servant.
"This is a journey from which I will not return." the master replied,
The servant asked: "Have you made all the necessary arrangements?"
"No, I guess I have not." 

"Well, could you have made all the arrangements?"
"Oh yes, I guess I've had time. I've had all my life. But I've been busy with other things.

The servant said: "Let me be sure about this. You're going on a journey, from which you will never return, and you've had all your life to make the arrangements, but you haven't."

The master said: "Yes, I guess that's right."

The servant replied: "Master, take this staff. For at last I have truly found a man stupider than myself."