Christian Hope And The Resurrection
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 6th November, 2022, St. John Vianney Parish, Kubwa, Abuja. Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama.
Readings: 2 Macc. 7:1-2, 9-14, 2 Thess. 2:16-3:5, Luke 20:27-38
Christian Hope And The Resurrection
In this month of November, when the Church prays for our departed brothers and sisters, the readings today point to the resurrection, our eternal life with God.
The readings teach us how to live and practice our faith with courage and hope. If our hope is anchored on Christ, then we can valiantly endure the torture, hardships and persecutions that we encounter as Christians, and in the end merit to rejoice at the glorious vision Christ has promised us.
The Church teaches us that: “Hope is the virtue by which we desire the kingdom of heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ’s promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit” (CCC, 1817). Hope is that which keeps us going and helps us to believe that things will get better someday. As Christians, the one commodity that we must market is hope even in the face of despair. We must work to keep hope alive with the realization that one day “we shall see God face to face” (Rev. 22:4). This is a virtue that luckily many Nigerians have in abundance. Since 1960 when we got our national independence, we have been hoping against hope that things will be better someday, somehow. In the midst of hardships inflicted by mismanagement and corrupt governance, forceful take-over of government, etc., we have remained resilient, and in the face of severe suffering caused by destabilizing poverty and insecurity, our hope remains undiminished as we keep praying that things will get better. Once there is life there is hope. (Dum Spiro Spero).
The story of the seven brothers in the first reading recounts the courageous witnessing of these sons arrested, tortured and who suffered death at the orders of the pagan Syrian King Antiochus, who wanted them to denounce their faith in God by eating the forbidden swine flesh. They, encouraged by their mother rather than defiling themselves chose death. In the face of their trial, they remained resolute and committed in keeping the law of God. The unwillingness of the seven sons to yield to the king’s decree reinforced by their mother’s encouragement was rooted in their belief in the resurrection from the dead. One of them said: “…you dismiss us from this present life, but the king of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life” (2 Macc. 7:9).
The responsorial psalm also tells us to keep faith and to pray, and to do the will of God, looking forward to the future with great hope, thus the antiphon, “I shall be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory, O Lord.” (Ps. 16:15).
Similarly, in the book of Daniel 3:16-28, we recall a familiar story of three Jewish boys – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were put under duress by King Nebuchadnezzar to worship an idol, but in uncompromising response, they chose to obey God than to bow to the golden image.
These Jews faced persecution courageously because of the hope they had in God. We are called to practice the Christian faith always, whether the time is favourable or not. We are called to witness to Jesus Christ anytime and everywhere, whether in joy or in pain. There is no room for seasonal Christians, part time, and indifferent Christians. In Christendom, from time immemorial the blood of martyrs has remained the seed of the Christian faith.
In the second reading St. Paul prays that we may have the endurance of Christ. In writing to the Thessalonians, he prays that “God who equips with comfort and hope to strengthen us in everything that is good” (2:15-16). Paul wrote this to a people, who due to sufferings, persecutions, and hardship expected the immediate return of Christ. In their despair he wrote to encourage them to endure while hoping in the fulfilment of Christ’s promise.
Paul today prays for the strength that will sustain us in the suffering and hard times we are passing through either as individuals or as a family, because he says, hope does not disappoint.
In the gospel Jesus answers a question about the resurrection. The Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead and even in angels and spirits wanted to ridicule the preaching of Jesus about life after death by asking and giving Him a concrete situation about who the husband would be in heaven of a woman married to seven different men in her earthly life. Also, they wanted to justify their belief that life ends here on earth.
Through His discussion with them, Christ made the point that life after the resurrection was totally different from earthly life, the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Lk. 20:34-35) and as
St. Paul reassures us, “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, then we deserve more pity than anyone else (1 Cor. 15:19).
If there is no hope for resurrection, there is no need for us to do good towards our neighbour, to love and to serve them. If there is no hope for the resurrection, there is no need for us to sacrifice and offer our lives for the sake of other people. If there is no resurrection, there is no need for us to pray, to go to Mass on Sundays, to work for peace and justice, to join in all religious activities of our church, to receive sacraments and many more; abhorring what is evil; holding fast to what is good, loving one another with brotherly affection, and outdoing one another in showing honour (cf. Rom 12:9-10).
We become like the Sadducees, ‘children of this world’ who say ‘there is no resurrection’ when we become fixated on human achievements, economic productivity and other accomplishments. We become like the Sadducees when we allow earthly projects to define our lives, wanting to live a life of fame, and material lavishness. But we become ‘children of the resurrection’, sons and daughters of God when we live faith-filled lives, courageously giving ourselves at the service of others.
Let us ask for the grace to approach Jesus, to listen and to receive His Living Word so that we can have life and have it to the full (cf. Jn. 10:10), as children of the resurrection.
May God bless the Parish priest, Rev Fr. Stephen Omoniyi SDB, his close collaborators, the 112 candidates for confirmation, and indeed all the parishioners of St. John Vianney Parish, Kubwa, and keep you all united in His peace and remain children of the resurrection. Amen.