Homily for November 10

The Torture of the Maccabean Brothers

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

Audio for homily

We could make the mistake of debating the wisdom
of laying down one’s life rather than eating a piece of pork.

But that would beg the question.
As would arguing that marriage is forever
when brides and grooms freely acknowledge, at their wedding,
that their union will last ‘til “death does part them.”

The details in these two scriptures can easily ensnare us
and cause us to miss their deeper message.

When considering the first reading,
we need to get beyond the question of pork
and ask ourselves, as did the seven brothers and their mother:
“Is there anything in my life more important
than God’s love for me?”

And when listening to the debate in the gospel today
we need to get beyond the Sadducees’ tricky questions
and ask ourselves,
“Is there any relationship in my life more important
than my relationship with God?”

These aren’t easy questions, not at all,
because my love for God and my relationship with God
are intimately bound up with my love for,
with my relationship with the most important people in my life:  
my spouse, my children, my family, my friends and my neighbor.

The seven brothers and their mother at the pig roast
had to ask themselves a question
and it wasn’t 
“Do I love God more than I love pork?”
Rather, they had to ask,
“Do I love God more than I love life itself?”

The story tells us their answer and rather than scorn or pity them
for laying down their lives over a dietary law
we’d do better to see that if they would obey God over the king
on such a small matter,
certainly they would have been prepared to lay down their lives
over matters of far greater import.

The question I have to ask myself is this
is there any instance when I would value
sustaining the integrity of my relationship with God
over preserving this mortal life of mine which will, to be sure,
one day come to an end?

In my moral and spiritual life, whom do I love more:
God or me?

The story of the seven brothers in the gospel raises  a like question
is any relationship in my life greater than my relationship with God?

The Sadducees are trying to trick Jesus
into saying there’s no resurrection
but he turns the tables on them.
Their question is foolish not because there’s no resurrection
but because the ultimate relationship for each of us
is our union not with a husband a wife, a parent or child,
a friend or neighbor   -- but with God.

Ultimately, all our relationships give way to God’s love for us
and our love for God.

It’s likely that NONE of us will ever be asked to lay down our lives
for either our loved ones OR for God.

But aside from those rare, dramatic moments we’ll likely never face
the message here has implications for our ordinary daily lives.
If not in the realm of my mortality, when are the times
when I’m called to choose and follow God’s will over my own
in my moral life, in my spiritual life?
Are there times when God’s will trumps mine?
Or do my own logic and conscience usually have the last word,
leading me to conclude that,
"Whadda ya know  - God evidently thinks just like I do!"
And if that’s the case,
what tradition, teaching, wisdom and authority do I call on
to check any tendency of mine to delude myself?

In my moral and spiritual life, who knows better:  God or me?

As I said at the beginning: these are hard questions to face...

We gather here as people who believe in the resurrection,
who believe in life after death.

And we believe we already have a share in the life of the risen Christ
as we’re nourished here with the truth of his Word
and with his life in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

Jesus laid down his life on the Cross, not for a piece of pork
but for you… and for me…
that our sins might be forgiven.

Christ suffered and handed himself over
because he loved you and me
more than he loved his own life.

May the wisdom of Jesus help us seek and find the truth
and value our relationship with God
above all else.


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