Are WE looking for the resurrection of the dead?

Resurrection of the Dead: Poitiers Cathedral

Homily for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's liturgy)

Audio for today's homily

(Every weekend my homily goes through changes from Mass to Mass (I usually preach 3 out of our 4 Sunday liturgies and do some "sacristy editing" in between). This week you'll see some of those changes in the differences between my text below and the audio above.  In the audio you'll also hear my response to a cell phone ringing!)

The Sadducees and the Pharisees,
two leading religious political parties at the time of Jesus,
disagreed about whether or not there is a life after death.
The Pharisees believed in an afterlife, the Sadducees did not,
and they’re the ones here, trying to set a theological trap for Jesus.
At least in this instance, then, we’re all Pharisees:
every week we say, in the Creed,
“We look for the resurrection of the dead 
and the life of the world to come.”
In fact, right after that we add, “Amen!”

The question these scriptures put to us today is this:
Do we really believe this?
Do we truly look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come?
Does our “Amen” rise up from our hearts or from rote recitation?

To be more precise:
Do we live our lives, you and I, day to day,
as people who are waiting for the life of a world to come?
Is there something, anything about our lives
that might suggest to others that we are live in anticipation
of something beyond this life?
Do I plan my day, my week, my time off
as someone who looks forward to the resurrection of the dead?
Do I make my biggest choices and decisions as one who waits
for the life of the world to come?
Do I celebrate my joys and grieve my losses
as one who hopes for a life greater than any present joy or loss?
Do I raise my children to live as those
who hope to live forever in God’s peace?
Does anything about the way we live mark us out
as having our eyes on a prize greater:
than success in business; greater than a comfortable life style;
greater than giving our children as much as we can;
greater than a secure retirement?

A secure retirement…

Perhaps that’s a good way to frame the question at hand:
am I living this life in expectation of the next life
or as if retirement will be the last stop on my life’s journey?

This past year the Archdiocese of Boston
upped the retirement age of priests from 70 to 75.
While all priests understand why this was done,
not all of us are thrilled about the prospect.
But I know I need to reconcile my disappointment about this change
with the question I’m raising here.

What’s the bottom line?
Where is it? When is it?
In the end, what’s it all about?

Am I planning and living my life largely in preparation
for when I stop working and what I’ll leave to my children?
Or (as important as those considerations are)
am I planning and living my life, my retirement
-and my legacy to my children-
in the light of that "retirement" that has no end, that is forever,
that is the life of the world to come?

It’s good to recite, Sunday after Sunday,
We look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
But it’s not enough.

And it’s good for us to be here every seventh day.
But it’s not enough.

It’s how we live our lives on the days between the Sabbaths
that will identify us as either those who are waiting for retirement
or those who living in anticipation of the life of the world to come.

We also pray these words, every week at Mass:
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy, keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…

We pray those words just before Communion,
just before we come to share in the Supper of the Lord, Jesus,
who laid down his life for us that he might rise again
and so give us hope that we will rise with him
after we have died.

We gather at his table now to share in the Eucharist:
for strength to live as those who await the resurrection;
as taste, a sip of the banquet shared prepared for us,
called to share in the life of the world to come.

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  1. Powerful homily.

    The extra five years of doing what you love to do - acceptance at its noblest.


    P.S. Perhaps we should have a giant thurible to take care of sounding cellphones!

  2. I am shocked to hear the news of the retirement age changes. I really think this should not be mandatory.
    You are human for God's sake.
    My heart goes out to you and I really am saddened that the church has come to this. I know how you are trying to reconcile it with your zeal for your ministry but you do deserve some repsite from all you do.
    Sorry for sounding off on this. Please know how much I value your ministry and friendship- I know so many others do too.
    Bless You !

  3. Thanks for a great homily! I used much of it in our further study of the scriptures in our RCIA meeting on Tuesday evening! I was so glad you were helping me out!

  4. And I'm very glad that my work here is able to reach your work there!


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