Our readings for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time are tailor-made to strengthen our faith in the resurrection. It must be our conviction that this life on earth is only the first chapter of a life that will never end, that cannot end for those who love God and are the objects of his love.
When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him” (2 Maccabees 7:14)
I would like to strengthen our faith by sharing with you, briefly, the story of a wonderful woman whom I know.
She is the mother of four boys and two girls. Like everyone else in this world, this woman has had her share of joys and sorrows. The deepest sorrow was the loss of her second daughter when she was only four months old.
The only way this remarkable woman can cope and function as mother, wife, and worker despite her terrible loss is by the book she wrote about her faith in God to sustain her throughout.
I know that her inspiring book has helped many a mother, especially those who had experienced the loss of a child.
Recently, she became a grandmother as her other daughter gave her a grandson.
A cold mind would reason that this woman should be content with the five bonds that she has established with her surviving children, but her heart insists on telling her that she has indeed six unbreakable bonds because her baby daughter is fully alive in the Lord.
I have chosen, purposely, what must be the strongest bond on this earth, the bond between mother and child because a mother gets a nine-month head start on anyone else in the family.
However, every single one of us has established unbreakable bonds with other human beings during our life. We have done so precisely because both we and every one of them share a common humanness.
Each one of these wonderful bonds was built slowly and painstakingly, day after day. Each one of these bonds was tested, perhaps repeatedly, by frailty and weaknesses; yet most of them have become so strong and so filled with feelings and emotions that we live with the deep-seated conviction that not even our worst enemy, death, can shatter them.
We pity materialists and atheists who insist that we are living a collective illusion; that, scientifically speaking, we are not different from a rock or a rat: with death, they insist, in our entirety we return to the soil from which we were taken.
Nobody can tell us that this earthly life is all that there is. Nobody can convince us that all those bonds cemented in love and tested by many trials and tears yet filled also with laughter and joy will end into a cold, dark nothingness.
We live on this earth with the hope God gives us of being raised up by him. We hold this to be true also of all those with whom we have built a bond of affection.
Now, if we, in our frailty and obvious limits, can establish these bonds of love which death itself cannot erase, can we imagine what Almighty God can do to make his bonds death-proofed?
We know that what unites us to our loved ones who have died is more than just fond memories of days gone by. We know that these bonds are very precious because of all the love, and care that we have invested in them.
Well, today, Jesus reveals to us the reason why the bond that God has established and nurtured with each one of us is such that we and everyone else sealed in his love become immortal.
“… and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Luke 20:38)
Over the years, we might have broken some of our bonds and established new ones. This is impossible for God because of his very divine nature. We have a past, we live in a fleeting, ever-changing present and we are thrust into an uncertain future.
For God it is quite different: God has only an endless NOW, a present that lasts forever. To the heart of God, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who died millennia ago, ARE now alive in him because he cannot change his mind.
“For to HIM all are alive.” (Luke 20:38)
Even if God could change his mind, he would never let go of us; he would never break his bond of love because of Whom he has sacrificed to make each one of us the object of his love: his only Son Jesus on a cross. We could not be any more precious than we already are—every single one of us! We gather to relive God’s total investment in the death of his only Son Jesus, but also to bask in Jesus’ resurrection, the concrete, historical proof of our immortality in the Son. Furthermore, at every Eucharist, our faith should enable us to see around the altar, with us, all our loved ones who have died in the Lord.
Hence, it is fitting and heartwarming for us to thank our God not only for the memories that we hold dear in our minds and hearts but also for the legacy of dedication, self-sacrifice, humble service, honesty, integrity, courage, and generous love that we have inherited from them.
In return, we can show them how much we still love and miss them by praying for them for two basic reasons. We show our affection by praying to make up, ourselves, for whatever might have been missing in their love while on earth. And we pray for them that they may trust in God’s boundless mercy as he purifies them of any imperfection.
In this fashion, we renew our hope that, one day, we will see with our own eyes how comforting true it is that we are all truly alive in the Father’s eternal, loving embrace.