Friday September 17, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Corinthians 15:12-20) Gospel (St. Luke 8:1-3)
In the Gospel this morning, we are told that Jesus journeyed from one town to another preaching and proclaiming the Good News. And the Good News, as we see in the first reading, is that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. The fact that He has been raised from the dead gives us the assurance that we too will be raised from the dead.
This is something that is difficult for people to understand. Remember, as we heard the apostles after the Transfiguration, they are coming down the mountain and they are talking about what it meant to be raised from the dead. They did not understand. How could they? Even we, knowing exactly what has been taught regarding the resurrection, still do not understand because it has not happened to anybody we know. We have not seen anybody going around being raised from the dead, therefore it is a difficult thing to be able to grasp. The concept we can certainly understand, but it is a very difficult thing to be able to understand the practical reality of just exactly how this is going to be able to work.
The reality is that our bodies are going to rise from the dead. Remember that our bodies will be reunited with our souls and they will live forever. There are only two possibilities of where one can live forever, therefore your body will either rise from the dead to live with God in heaven for eternity or your body is going to rise from the dead and live in hell for eternity. It is one or the other, but either way your body is going to rise from the dead and it will be reunited with your soul.
But due to the fact that it is difficult for some people to believe, as Saint Paul is making the point to the Corinthians, sometimes they wind up rejecting it. And even if we do not reject it outright, I think if we are really honest with ourselves we have to admit that we sometimes live in a way that we are really rejecting it. The way that happens is, number one, we live for this world instead of the next. If body and soul are going to be gone from this world, why are we so interested in what goes on here? Why are we so concerned about all the things of this world? We are not made for this world. We have to live in this world but we are passing through, strangers and sojourners. So that is part of it. Secondly, why are we afraid of dying? If we know that we are going to be raised from the dead and if we have confidence in the mercy of God and in Christ, then we should be seeking to embrace death because it is the only way to life. Not in the sense that we would be suicidal or anything like that – certainly not – but rather that we would be running toward eternity, that we would desire to be able to get out of here and go to heaven. The saints call this the “vale of tears”. Why do we want to stick around?
Again, we need to be careful. We are the stewards of our bodies and we need to take care of ourselves and so on. I am not suggesting we need to do something foolish, but what I am saying is that we need to overcome our fear of death. Saint Paul told the Romans that death has been destroyed. There is no more power in death; there is no sting in death anymore because Christ is raised from the dead. And if He is raised from the dead, then you already are, not physically yet, but in the Mystical Christ you have been raised from the dead and are already seated at God’s right hand. So why fear death? It has no power over you! You have to enter into it, but you are going to conquer death, indeed, in Christ you already have. So why do we look at death with fear?
As Saint John tells us, Fear has to do with judgment. If we are afraid that God is going to condemn us to hell, then we need to look pretty seriously at our souls and ask ourselves, “Have I confessed everything that I know is a mortal sin?” If the answer to that is “yes” then you have absolutely nothing to fear from God. If you are in the state of grace, you are friends with God. And if you are praying, you are developing your relationship with God and in fact growing in love with Him. If you are growing in love with God, why would you be afraid of Him? It does not make any sense. If we really plot it out practically like that, we realize that not only is there no reason to fear death but there is every reason to hope for it because we get to see God face-to-face. We get to live with Christ for eternity. We get to be with Our Lady and the saints and all the angels. Or we can stay around here. Is there much of an option? Is there really a choice? Why would anyone in their right mind want to be hanging around here longer if they can go to heaven? It does not make sense – unless we simply do not believe.
That is what we have to be about: looking at our own attitude, especially toward the resurrection, to make sure that it is not just some theoretical concept floating around in the back of our mind that sounds nice but has no practical reality for us. It is as real as can be, and it is something we need to embrace because it is going to be our eternity one way or the other. So we live in this life with our focus set on heaven, we keep ourselves in the state of grace, and we develop our relationship with God so that when Our Lord calls us home we are not going to fight but rather we are going to embrace death, with Christ we are going to overcome death and we are going to enter into the fullness of life.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.