In death as in life only one thing remains

Tom Bartolomeo
32nd Sunday Ordinary C 2013
Maccabees 7: 1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17;
2 Thessalonians 2: 16-3:5; Luke 20: 27-38
Reproduced with Permission

In death as in life only one thing remains. Nothing changes - except we will know there is no turning back like an plane at lift-off without a return flight. The memory of where we have been will fade quickly as we anticipate the place of our arrival. The persons we were before we passed through the gates of the terminal will be the same persons we are after de-boarding the flight on our arrival like people passing from one room to another. Except for the sorrow of those we leave behind our lives will remain the same forever.

I always find it interesting as I have looked over a gathering of relatives and friends how many seem unprepared for the inevitable, even the elderly.

Just what were the Sadducees, lawyers in Jesus' day, thinking -- whose wife would the widow be married to in heaven? At death all earthly obligations and concerns, husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and acquaintances end. Of course! there is no 'marrying and remarrying' or child bearing in heaven. When the last child is born and the last person dies in this world there will be no others in eternity. The one thing that remains between the tears and laughter, between corruption and incorruption, between life and death is our relationship with God and only in him with others. Some may first have to put in proper order the chambers of their hearts and souls in a place of purgation and others continue their lives with no relationship with God at all as it was for them in this world. For some others it will be a relationship of love begun in this world which Jesus in his last days revealed. "I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15: 15). Are we a part of God's business here or about our own business? "Those" who as Jesus said, know and live out the "master's business "are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age . . . for they are like angels; and they are the children of God." (Luke 20: 36-38). Oh! That we would all be like them.

How is that possible?, we may wonder, hearing the dreadful story, for example, of the seven brothers and their mother recounted in the Second Book of Maccabees who so bravely died in God's good graces having endured a world of pain in this life. "She encouraged each of [her sons]," we are told. "Filled with a noble spirit, she reinforced her woman's reasoning with a man's courage, and said to them, 'I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements with each of you. Therefore, the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws'." And love alone does not make it possible. More is required.

Bishop Fulton Sheen rightly said that love requires an active hatred of sin, not indifference towards and tolerance of sin which is so prevalent today.

Real love involves real hatred [Bishop Sheen said]: whoever has lost the power of moral indignation and the urge to drive the buyers and sellers from the temples has also lost a living, fervent love of Truth. Charity, then, is not a mild philosophy of "live and let live"; it is not a species of sloppy sentiment. Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God, which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly. (

Given the real evil in this world Jesus made it clear that "you can not love God and the things of this world" (Matthew 6: 24) and "whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12: 25 ) [Italics mine]. Of course, God's grace and life is a gift beyond our mortal coil. We eventually do die. We find our hope , however, hereafter in Christ who said, he "is the way, the truth and the life." (John 14: 1). Jesus lived 'the way' for our imitation and taught us 'the way' in his singularly most important address, his "sermon on the mount" when he preached the Beatitudes which we recently recalled in the gospel reading on the Solemnity of All Saints. The Beatitudes -- poverty, meekness, sorrow, righteousness, mercifulness, purity of heart, peacemaking and enduring persecution - are 'the way', the only way to the kingdom of heaven.

Here we are gathered on the Lord's Day, a day of reflection. During the week did I embrace or shun poverty, meekness, sorrow, righteousness, mercy, purity, peacemaking and persecution for the faith? Wasn't this the Apostle Paul's concern in his Letter we heard read today? "Pray for us", he said, "so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be gloried . . . and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith . . . . May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ." There is much to love and hate in this world. And remember what Bishop Sheen said:

Charity . . . is not a mild philosophy of "live and let live"; it is not a species of sloppy sentiment. Charity is the infusion of the Spirit of God, which makes us love the beautiful and hate the morally ugly.