HOMILY SUNDAY 32-C
Living Calvary in Slow Motion
(2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17; 2 Thes 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38)
“May our Lord Jesus Christ, and God our Father who has given us his love, strengthen you in everything you do or say.”
With these words, and indeed with the whole paragraph of the second reading to the Thessalonians, St. Paul sets the context for this Sunday’s celebration of the liturgy, and it is a dynamic context.
We could put it this way: May this love of God in Jesus Christ, strengthen us to be martyrs of charity, people called to live Calvary in slow motion.
In Jesus Christ, God our Father has given us his love, fully and completely. There can be no shadow of doubt. We are absolutely and totally loved by God. There is not a thing we can do to make God love us more than God already does.
That love, however, is powerful. It comes laden with grace, which is the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. This grace, St Paul says, gives us inexhaustible comfort and sure hope. That hope springs from the gift of faith that is freely given to those who love God, and who are loved by God. That faith and hope, based on God’s love for us, strengthens us in everything good we do or say.
That blend of faith, hope and love given to us allows us to go way beyond the limited faith stance of the Sadducees in the gospel, who do not believe in the resurrection and try to trip Jesus up with their questioning of him. Someday we will rise from the dead to be with Jesus and God our Father in heaven. Our bodies will be glorified, like the body of Jesus was glorified on the mountain during the transfiguration. What a delight and blessing that will be. We are to live in the sure hope of that promise of God.
We cannot take the resurrection for granted. When I took a Community Addictions Training course at the Nechi Institute in St Albert, Alberta, I found myself to be one of only a few participants in that course who believed in the resurrection. All the other class members were talking about reincarnation. I was able to speak to them about what the resurrection meant for me and share my faith in the resurrection with my class members.
Our gift of faith can lead us to actually be martyrs, although not necessarily physical martyrs. We may never be called to give up our lives like the Maccabee brothers in the first reading, who died because of their loyalty to their faith and the Jewish laws concerning unclean foods. Our martyrdom will more than likely be a martyrdom of charity, living Calvary in slow motion, through our consistent acts of unselfish love day in and day out.
An example of a martyr of charity is St. Eugene de Mazonod, founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. His youthful life of pleasure and doing his own will changed dramatically one particular Good Friday day at the foot of the Cross. He had a deep and profound spiritual experience of the love of God for him in Jesus Christ that shook him to the core, and changed his life forever. So deep was this experience that he could not restrain himself from shedding tears abundantly, in full sight of other worshippers present that day. Where before he was a pampered party-goer and rather unclear as to the meaning of his life, he found that purpose and meaning loud and clear that day at the foot of the Cross.
In his writings, he recounts how he made a decision that from that moment on, he would live only for God. At a later stage in his religious development, he expressed a desire to be a martyr for Christ, to give his life for Christ. Realizing that physical martyrdom was not for him, he resolved to be a martyr of charity, and so he was, both as founder of a religious congregation, and as bishop of Marseilles.
The Eucharist that we celebrate today is a martyr’s meal. Jesus gave his life for us on the cross, so that we could live in freedom from sin and be filled with the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. This celebration makes present that profound love that Jesus has for us, along with the Father of all.
May our celebration today strengthen us in all that we say or do, and empower us to be martyrs of charity, living Calvary in slow motion.