10Nov 10 November, 2019. 32nd Sunday (C)

1st Reading: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14

Martyrdom of the brothers and their mother: faith in the resurrection

Seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king, under torture with whips and thongs, to partake of unlawful swine’s flesh. One of them, acting as their spokesman, said, “What do you intend to ask and learn from us? For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” And when he was at his last breath, he said, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.”

After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands and said nobly, “I got these from Heaven and because of his laws I disdain them and from him I hope to get them back again.”

As a result, the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man’s spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing. After he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. When he was near death, he said, “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of mortals and to cherish the hope God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!”

Responsorial: Psalm 16:1, 5-6, 8, 15

Response: Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Lord, hear a cause that is just,
pay heed to my cry.
Turn your ear to my prayer:
no deceit is on my lips. (R./)

I kept my feet firmly in your paths;
there was no faltering in my steps.
I am here and I call, you will hear me, O God.
Turn your ear to me; hear my words. (R./)

Guard me as the apple of your eye.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
As for me, in my justice I shall see your face
and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory. (R./)

2nd Reading: 2 Thessalonians 2:16–3:5

May the Lord direct your hearts!” Paul prays for their fidelity in the faith

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.

Gospel: Luke 20:27-38

Jesus teaches resurrection, because God is truly a God of the living

Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus to question him, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no children, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married and died childless; then the second and the third married her and so in the same way all seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die anymore, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of the resurrection. And the fact that the dead are raised Moses himself showed, in the story about the bush, where he speaks of the Lord as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”


Knowing where we are going

We would think it foolish to set out on a journey without knowing where we were going. In a broad sense, of course, our pilgrimage through life is largely a path into the unknown, a journey towards the destiny God sets for us. The Maccabee family whose martyrdom is reported in the first reading, believed very firmly that God had a place for them beyond death. The faith in the after-life expressed by each of them at the point of death is the most explicit in non-Christian Jewish literature. During this month of the Holy Souls, it is good to recall our faith in the resurrection of the body, and the our Church’s teaching about those who have gone before us and what kind of help we can hope to give them.

It is the Catholic tradition that for all those who die without fully repenting their sins, there is a purification in the next life. We also believe that the departed on Purgatory should be prayed for by those living, and especially through offering Mass on their behalf. While popular folklore may imagine it as similar to hell but with a lower temperature, the Church teaches nothing specific on the nature of Purgatory. Any ideas people may have about it are pure guesswork. The Curé of Ars, Saint John Vianney, when asked about the life hereafter said very simply, “I know nothing of to-morrow, except that the love of God will rise before the sun.”

Jesus promises at the Last Supper. “In my Father’s house there are many rooms and I am going to prepare a place for you.” While this offers us great hope it should not make us complacent, for we are daily challenged to choose between right and wrong, in order to follow the Lord of Life. If we do not live as God wants we feel an inner sense of unease. In his epic poem “The Dream of Gerontius” Saint John Henry Newman described Purgatory as a healing process, preparing us for God’s presence. He imaginse the anguish in the souls of the departed because of their awareness of sins they have committed. But the Lord is there to heal that soul and draw us into heaven. This is what we pray for the Holy Souls in this month of November.

A trick question was put to Jesus in the form of a cynical riddle. His critics questioned the existence of an after-life by the implausible tale of a woman who outlived her seven husbands, to embarrass Jesus and test his wits. In the afterlife, presumably we will be free of the bodily needs and appetites of our present experience. We will be like children in God’s presence, fully content, no longer needing what we need in this world.

The human heart feels an an inherent longing for the after-life. But the realm of the dead is what Shakespeare memorably called “The undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns.” Though nobody comes back to confirm it for us, through Jesus we believe it is real, just the same. As Paul said: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart to imagine what God has in store for those who love him.”

Cad atá i ndán duinn?

Táimid ag súil leis an mbeatha shíoraí faoi dhóchas agus faoi dhíogras. Sé an tsíorraíocht ná “Tír nach bhfuil éalú uaithi nó filleadh an ath-uair.” (dar le Shakespeare). In ainneoin san, creidimíd sa bheatha shíoraí i dteannta an Tiarna Íosa. Mar a dúirt Naomh Pol, “Nithe nach bhfaca súil iad agus nár chuala cluas iad, nithe nár smaoinigh an duine orthu ina aigne, is iad atá ullamh ag Dia dóibh siúd a bheir grá dó”. (Cor 1:2,9)


Iarratas ar Gaeilgeóirí (ó Nollag, 2019 amach)

Iarram ar gaeilgeóirí líofa, a bhéad ábalta smaoineamh gearr a chur a fáil dúinn ó am go h’am. Má’a ea, tá fáilte rómhat leagan gaeilge a chur ar alt de mo théacs féin, nó alt úr-nua a chumadh le Domhnnaigh éagsúla.. Seól do dhréacht-téacs chugam in am trátha (cúpla seachtain roimh ré, ar a laghad) agus lig dom é a eagrú in ár ngnáthfhormáid… chun cabhrú le paróistí atá céiliúradh fós as Gaeilge. Má’s féidir leat cabhrú: patrogers43 AT gmail.com. Míle maith agaibh.


8 Responses

  1. Seamus Ahearne

    The Late Late Show:
    Gay Byrne died on Monday. Betty died on Monday. Gay was 85. Betty was 85. Gay had a Special ‘Late Late Show’ on Tuesday. We created our own ‘Late Late Show’ for Betty. All the great and the good arrived for Gay. All the locals here celebrated Betty. Saint Gay may have been canonised by the world at large; we had our own canonisation process. Gay’s colleagues told their yarns. We told our stories. And it was good. It was important to ‘celebrate’ Gay. It was important to ‘celebrate’ Betty. It is important that this is done for everyone and with every family.

    Sometimes saints don’t look like saints at all:

    Last Friday was All Saints. Charlie Landsborough would say: ‘Sometimes saints don’t look like saints at all.’ Indeed. It was very moving to listen to the colourful characters being brought out on parade from the memory-bank of those present. The ones with the halos didn’t get any look in. And then we arrived to Saturday. It was All Souls Day. It was the day when all the dead are remembered. The whole Ritual of the evening focused on the names of those who had died during the year. The Church was packed despite the bad evening. The Liturgy was totally attuned to those present. (Obviously the weekend Liturgy was discarded as irrelevant!) Most of those who came, would be unused to Church or to Mass. Mario Lanza used to sing: ‘When you are in love, it is the loveliest night of the year. The stars twinkle above and you almost touch them from here.’ We were all caught up in the communal grief and the communal love. It is the loveliest night of the year. We did touch the stars in the collective communion. We are indeed privileged to be welcomed into the history and story of every home. This is real Liturgy. This is incarnation.

    Saint John Paul:

    Mary McAleese featured on the penultimate item on that Late Late Show for Gay. She was accompanied by Brian Darcy on the final panel. These are interesting times. There was a time when those noisy Religious folk would turn up everywhere. Now they are an embarrassment. Except Brian – of course. Mary has featured prominently those days. She wasn’t deeply impressed with Saint John Paul. His observations on man/woman relationships rather disturbed her. She had a point. She extrapolated from that – the whole Church’s treatment of women. She had a point. There is a stridency in her voice these days. She has the northern edge. She begins to almost sound like Arlene. Those arguments hold whatever about the edge. Is it right to take the shine off the halo worn by John Paul? I think it is. There was an unholy haste in that canonisation process. I thought that Francis might even consider canonising himself! Such carry-on devalues the idea. We will stay with our local family saints. However, I respect the use of the scalpel (by Mary) in any forensic examination of the past but I am squeamish when a sledgehammer is used as well. I must be getting very old. I hardly recognise myself these days!!!

    This weekend:

    This weekend (Readings) is somewhat daunting unless it finds its place among our own feelings around the dead. They challenge us to look deeply at the meaning of life and the meaning of death. (We do need to understand some of the history to grasp some more of the stories). It isn’t just Gay or Betty. It is everyone. It is the crowded cemeteries and all the visitors. It is the prayerful remembrances. It is the ageing factor. It is the constant medical contacts we make as our body tires. It is the sense that there is something more. That life goes on. That we are bigger and more than now. Those seven brothers impress with their belief. Those seven brothers doing all the marrying, amuse. The details are never too important. The general story is. The gesture we used on November 2nd was – a daffodil bulb. There was a Guided Meditation. It was also mimed. Everyone held that bulb. They took them home. They will plant those bulbs. They will bring back those daffodils at Eastertime. Paul’s words in 1 Cor 15 is our own way forward.

    Seamus Ahearne osa

  2. Paddy Ferry

    “Is it right to take the shine off the halo worn by John Paul? I think it is.”

    I absolutely agree, Seamus –not just the shine but the halo itself.

    PS. Mary is great, thank God for her.

  3. Eddie Finnegan

    “Is it right to take the shine off the halo worn by Mary? I think it is.”
    “I absolutely agree . . . not just the shine but the halo itself.
    PS. Mary is great, thank God for her.” (Seamus@1 and Paddy@2, adapted)

    I refer, of course, not to Mary Mother of Jesus and Spouse of Joseph, but to Mary Mother of Justin and Spouse of Martin. I have consulted my old friend Thomas Aquinas who reminds me in his Summa Theologiae of the basic distinction between the ‘dulia of reverence’, the ‘hyperdulia due only to a super-woman’ and the ‘latria due only to God’. While I was one of those who, some years ago, rather effusively suggested that Mary belonged in the College of Cardinals, I fear that this group-emotionalism may now have led to what Tom Aquinas was warning us against, a movement towards Mariolatry. That this unquestioning ‘latria’ in place of ‘hyperdulia’ should have had its most recent appearance in the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity near Dublin, founded on the site of the Augustinian Priory of All Hallows, is all the more alarming.

    Perhaps it is time for a more questioning dulia or hyperdulia of Mary on this forum, not so much for her “Northern Edge” or “stridency” or even her Arlene-like compulsions, but for her rather loose and populist form of scholarship towards which a Trinity College audience should have at least raised a collective eyebrow.

    I notice that Margaret Hickey has raised some of these questions in the more appropriate corner of this site, and Dr Thomas Finegan (no relation) of Mary Immaculate Limerick has tried twice to engage Dr McAleese in the Irish Times. One might have expected a more relevant reply from a DCL and former Mother of the Nation.

  4. Stella Stephenson

    Sorry I disagree regarding St John Paul. Surely, and correct me if I am wrong, God in His infinite wisdom and providence would not have allowed St John Paul II a miracle attributed to him and would not have allowed him to be canonised a Saint.

  5. Pádraig McCarthy

    In the first reading and the gospel reading today we have seven brothers, and the question of extinction or of life after death.
    2 Maccabees 7:
    There was a Dublin Maccabi Association on Kimmage Road West – a sports facility, I think. I don’t know whether it has moved, or was dissolved. The Maccabee story is honoured in the Hanukah celebration every year – a festival of eight days to honour the rededication of the Temple following the period in which today’s first reading is set. Eight candles, one extra each day, are lit – echoed by our Advent Wreath.
    We’re about 167 BC, and a savage persecution of the Jews. Alexander the Great died, and now this area is governed by King Antiochus Epiphanes. As some rulers are tempted to do, he insisted on complete control. He would not abide a religion not under his command. All had to accept his gods. All Jewish practices were forbidden. Around this time some understanding of a life after death was developing in the Jewish community.
    Why didn’t those in today’s reading just eat the pig’s flesh? It would have saved their suffering, and their deaths. Just before this story, in 2 Maccabees 6, is the story of Eleazar, faced with the same choice. He was urged to eat some other meat, pretending it was pork. But no: for him, deceit was out of the question. And if he chose that, he would lead others astray. It would seem that he had publicly rejected the Jewish faith. So he went to his death.
    At the front of the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin is a statue of Margaret Ball and Francis Taylor, who were faced with a similar decision in Penal times. Margaret died in a dungeon in Dublin castle after three years’ incarceration, imprisoned by her own son, Lord Mayor of Dublin. She would not take the Oath of Supremacy recognising the English monarch as head of the church. She could have compromised, pretended; but she did not. So she suffered and died in 1581, as did Francis Taylor in 1621.
    What gives people such determination and courage? For the Maccabees, it was their trust in God, who would restore their bodies and their lives. For them, it was more like resuscitation: restoration of their bodily lives to their former state. With Jesus, we see further development of the understanding.

    Luke 20:27-38.
    The Sadducees accepted only the Books of Moses, the five books of the Torah, the Pentateuch. They didn’t find resurrection there, so they rejected it.
    (Remember the old joke? – Why are they called Sadducees? They do not believe in the resurrection – that is why they are “Sad, you see!”)
    If the human race stopped having children, we would be extinct within a century. Any few survivors then could not have a child. So to have children is vital in order to continue the human race.
    The Sadducees try to ridicule the very idea of resurrection. It was vital to continue the family line, so there was an obligation to beget a child. The alternative is extinction. But not one of the seven brothers fathered a child with the woman; so in the resurrection, if such there be, the challenge would still be there to beget a child. Trouble!
    Jesus goes beyond the understanding in Maccabees. Not resuscitation, but transformation. We are in the realm of mystery.
    Gay Byrne, in his TV series “The Meaning of Life”, ended each interview with the question: “Suppose it’s all true? Suppose you arrive at the pearly gates and you meet God. What do you say?”
    But there’s no such thing as gates made of pearls. There is no “last trumpet.” No sitting on clouds playing harps. These are all imaginative uses of language to try to convey that this is deep mystery. We don’t have knowledge or language to speak of what the reality is. So we use poetic images of the impossible: like the bush, aflame yet not burned, where Moses encounters God in the impossible.
    In the resurrection we are equal to angels. Not that that helps much – how do we figure out what makes an angel? Not that we will be angels – we are still corporeal beings, but equal to angels. So death has no power over us any more. No need to beget children to continue the line: the line is already firmly established.
    In speaking of such things, we are in mystery. Anything we say is inadequate – it can only be by analogy, and we need to say that it is beyond us. For now.
    But we have the word of Jesus, the example of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus.
    Is this enough to enable us to trust in God’s faithfulness, as did the Maccabees, as did Margaret Ball and Francis Taylor and so many more? What are we willing to face?
    (Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office published a report in July 2019 on supporting persecuted Christians around the world. Jeremy Hunt’s address, and the report, are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/persecution-of-christians-review-foreign-secretarys-speech-following-the-final-report.
    (But Mr Hunt forgets some of his British history when he says: “Britain has always championed freedom of religion or belief for everyone.” The history of Ireland, and of England and Wales and Scotland, and of the English colonies in America, tell a different story.)
    It is good to remember today those facing persecution in our world; that there are countries where Christians are forbidden to gather as we do today to celebrate our God: God is God of the living. To God, all are in fact alive.

  6. Paddy Ferry

    Stella, you know I am not quite sure what God would think about attributed miracles. In fact, I am really uncertain what control God has over these things. At the moment I am grappling with a much more basic thing. Forget about His or perhaps, Her or maybe even It’s infinite wisdom and providence for the moment. I am simply trying to figure out what I believe God to be –what is my understanding of the reality of God, the essence of the divinity if you like. After all these years of innocent acceptance, I am really struggling.

    However, I am grateful to Fr. Diarmuid O’Murchu for his excellent book, “Incarnation. A New Evolutionary Threshold” which gives us a great start.

    As for the reasons why JPII shoukd not be a saint, well we could go on all night on that one, Stella.

    Eddie, thanks for injecting, as always, a welcome dose of erudition into this discourse. I will reply more fully at a more Godly –there I go again –hour. Also, re Inter Cert history I still have the book –it is behind me on the shelf even as I write. I thought it was so wonderful I should keep it forever. I hope you keep corresponding, Eddie. There are so few of us –as you often remarked.

    Good night and God bless you both.

  7. Paddy Ferry

    Padraig @5, thank you that Pádraig. I did not much like those readings this morning. Perhaps it was just the way I was feeling. So, I appreciate reading your reflection/homily.
    By the way, is there a difference between sermon and homily? Am I correct in thinking that the homily is always about the scripture and the sermon can be about anything –or vice versa. I think someone once explained this to me but I am now uncertain.

  8. Pádraig McCarthy

    Paddy #7:
    I don’t know if there’s an “official” distinction between homily and sermon. I tend to think of a homily as bringing out the spiritual message and inspiration in a reading or occasion.
    I try not to tell people what to think about the reading or occasion, but to provide reflections which will spark off their own reflections at the time, and some ideas which will recur in their lives in the following days to continue the reflection and prayer.