Sunday Sermon for November 6, 2022, the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: 2 Mac 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thes 2:16-3:5; Lk 20:27-38
In the second reading today, St. Paul prays that the Lord would direct our hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ. The love of God makes sense to us, but the endurance of Christ might sound a bit strange. However, when we recall the sufferings St. Paul had to endure himself, as well as all of the other Apostles, we begin to understand why he would pray this way for the people. We also recall our Lord speaking about the need to persevere to the end. This perseverance is certainly in the love of God, but it is precisely this love that provides the means for our endurance.
We know there are three Theological Virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Charity is the greatest because it is the only one that will remain for eternity. When a person enters into Heaven, neither faith nor hope is necessary because both will be completely fulfilled in the Beatific Vision. However, while still living in this life, faith and hope are both essential. Faith keeps us grounded in the truth while hope looks forward to the fulfillment of the promises in which we believe by faith.
This is what we see in the first reading where we hear about the heroic mother and her seven sons who were all murdered in front of her by pagans who were trying to force the Jews to forsake their religion. We hear about the first four brothers in today’s reading, and we see the clear faith they had and the hope of the resurrection. Ultimately, however, it was their love for God, based on their faith and hope, that allowed them to endure the various tortures inflicted upon them and willingly hand themselves over to death. Truly, these young men and their extraordinary mother persevered to the end.
The faith and hope we see in these young men should be found in even greater measure in us because we believe in Jesus and we have our hope based on Him. The seven brothers from the first reading believed in God and in His promises, but they died with hope in the Messiah whereas we are graced with knowledge of the Christ. This means our faith, hope, and charity should far surpass those who did not have the privilege of knowing our Lord.
We have been given the fullness of truth which provides the solid foundation for our faith. We have all the promises of Christ which provide the foundation for our hope. We also know the Lord Who, because He loves us so much, took our human nature so that He could suffer and die for us. For those who doubt God’s love, our Lord proved it in the most profound and unmistakable manner on the Cross. Out of pure love for His Father and for us, Jesus persevered to the end and gave us an example true charity and the endurance that only love makes possible.
Since love needs to be received and reciprocated, we are called to love as we have been loved. This is difficult for many today because of the selfishness that is so pervasive in our society. If there is something inconvenient, we tend to shy away from it. So, the idea of enduring is something that might not resonate with a lot of people today. Hence, the necessity of St. Paul praying for that endurance.
Our hope, as mentioned, is in our Lord and in the promises He made to us, especially the resurrection and eternal life. There are a couple misunderstandings that stem from statements in today’s Gospel reading that should be addressed with regard to both of these promises. The first is that we become like angels. Please note that our Lord does not say we become angels. God created us to be human, and we will be human for all eternity; we cannot and will not become angels.
We will be like the angels in that the weaknesses inherent in the body will no longer be an issue, our knowledge of God and His truth will be infused into our minds so we will not have need to learn, and our love will be pure and perfect.
The second issue arises from our Lord’s statement that in Heaven people are not married. Marriage, recall, ends at the moment of the death of the first spouse. This is because Heaven is a marriage where Jesus is the Bridegroom of our souls and all of us are members of the Bride. It will no longer be two who are joined, but every person in Heaven will be joined in a union that is even more profound that marriage. We believe this, we hope for this; this is our reason for loving God and enduring in Christ.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.