Saturday, November 5, 2016

From the archives: a homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Begin with the end in mind! Perhaps you have heard of Steven Covey who wrote the best seller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People? Covey’s book could be called self-help, how to guide for setting personal goals based on a character ethic that follows his seven habits. One such habit is “begin with the end in mind” where he suggests we do everything by understanding our deepest values as we pursue our life goals. No matter what the task or challenge is in front of us, Covey says begin with the end in mind.

We do this in our everyday lives, don’t we? When we plan an important family event, like a birthday, a wedding, a vacation or even a career decision, we think about the end in mind.

As people of faith, do we live our everyday lives beginning with the end in mind? And what is the end in mind when we are speaking of our faith life.

In our Gospel today Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem; his suffering, death and resurrection is at hand. As we have journeyed with Jesus in these past many weeks through St. Luke’s Gospel we have been introduced to many people. And so it is today; we meet the Sadducees. We have already encountered the Pharisees, now we meet the Sadducees who are quite different. The Sadducees are the wealthy, the aristocrats, and the ruling class who cooperated with the real rulers in Rome. They followed the Old Testament but only emphasized the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch. And most importantly, the Sadducees denied most forcefully any belief in resurrection from the dead. No resurrection? No wonder they are called sad, you see!

Here they confront Jesus in their attempt to trap and expose Jesus as a fraud. They concoct an example of one wife and seven brothers; all of whom she must marry as one after another dies, in order to produce an heir. The question, in order to trick him, is at the resurrection, whose wife will she be? Surely he will be forced to answer in such a way that will prove their point; there can be no resurrection of the dead. Jesus is not going to fall for such an obvious trap. Instead he answers in such a way that they could understand. He quotes from Exodus, one of those Old Testament books of Moses that the Sadducees follow where God uses the name Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to identify Himself. Even the Sadducees believed in God and that He is the God of the living. Jesus’ answer satisfied the Sadducees as they say in verse 40 you have answered well.

Jesus’ response should be one of great hope and joy for all us as it forces us to consider the end in mind. His answer should confirm for us that God is indeed for the living, that Jesus came to give life and that we, like Jesus, can live eternally with the Father in Heaven.

And Jesus brings this message not just to us gathered here today, but to those considered “dead”. By this I mean the sinner, the outcast, the immigrant, the leper, the prisoner, the disabled, the weak, the marginalized, and the sick! And Jesus challenges us, by keeping the end in mind, to serve these brothers and sisters everyday by our example, our faith and our service.

What can we do this week to put our faith into action and follow the example of Christ keeping the end in mind? We are in the early days of November and we are encouraged to remember the dead. Have we added our loved ones to the book of the dead located here before us in church? Have we made a special effort to pray for the dead focusing on the souls in purgatory? Have we visited a cemetery and prayed?

What about the living? Have we contributed to our own parish effort to provide food for our local community? Our Ladies Sodality is busy preparing food baskets; have we done our part? Our poor boxes, located here in Church, are the major means of support for the poor and needy served by our own St. Vincent de Paul Society. Right here at home, there is plenty we can do. And we should do so joyfully, always focused on the end in mind.

Steven Covey always believed that every life goal should begin with the end in mind. If we succeed at this, we will achieve our goals. Jesus gives us that example but truly with Him, there is no end, unless we count Heaven as our eventual home the end. Following him, the end in mind is no end at all; it’s life ever lasting. That’s a goal we all should shoot for!

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