32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mass for those in Consecrated Life – November 6, 2022
With the mid-term elections taking place in just two days, most of us will likely breathe a sigh of relief as we finally get a reprieve from the countless number of political advertisements on TV, in the newspaper and in our mailboxes that have inundated our lives for the last few months. More than ever before, it seems that just about every candidate for office has been described in the harshest of ways by his or her opponent, with every candidate being painted as extremely liberal or conservative, and no candidate being allowed to occupy a conciliatory posture in between.
In many respects, it seems that the old adage from the Book of Ecclesiastes that there’s nothing new under the sun is true, at least when we compare the modern political landscape of conservatives vs. liberals with today’s gospel passage. We find Jesus confronting the Sadducees, a more conservative faction of priests and Jewish establishment types, at least when compared in some respects to the more progressive Pharisees, who, in their own way have also attempted to discredit Jesus in some recent passages from Saint Luke’s gospel.
As strange as it may seem to many of us, the Sadducees did not believe in the hereafter. For them, this experience of life was all there was. No heaven. No resurrection. No eternal life. So in order to discredit Jesus’ teaching, they pose a crafty scenario to show that resurrection would be an absurd concept. They bring up the silly case about the woman with seven husbands and how all those connections would work out in heaven.
Unfortunate? Perhaps. Yet, from a different perspective, we’re not all that different than the Sadducees, are we? Yes, we believe in the resurrection. We believe in eternal life. But like the Sadducees, we have a lot of questions about the eternity of God’s heaven, don’t we? … We wonder if we’ll recognize our loved ones and what they’ll look like. … We wonder if our lost hair will be restored. … How will we occupy our time? … Will we get bored with eternity?
It’s crucial, then, that we pay careful attention to how Jesus responds to the Sadducees unusual question. In effect, Jesus asserts that their whole question and approach to resurrection and eternity is irrelevant. Why? Because when we pass from this world to the next, all of us will be changed through the power of God.
Essentially, Jesus says to the Sadducees – and to us – that it would be well to forget all of our categories and preconceptions. Heaven is beyond time and experience. Only one thing counts and only one thing remains: faith! … The faith that comes from believing Jesus and trusting that when he says there is a heaven, there will be. … The faith that comes from a deep, abiding trust that Jesus died for our sins, that he loves us beyond measure and that he desires that we be saved.
In short, Jesus gives us no specifics in response to our questions about the hereafter either. Instead, he calls us to surrender our questions, our concerns and our logical assumptions in order to simply trust that God, in his infinite mercy and love, will care for us more than we could ever imagine.
To put the gospel in other words, it really does come down to this: believe deeply that Jesus loves you with a love that endures through time and eternity. That alone should be enough for us!
Today, we gather in prayer to celebrate the gift of consecrated life in the Church. We give thanks for those women and men who have understood the heart of today’s gospel and have embraced the Lord’s call to holiness and mission because they have come to believe in the enduring love of God – a love first planted in the hearts of faithful souls who are humble enough to trust in a power bigger than themselves – yet a love not bound by time and space but expansive enough to traverse the limits of our world and carry us into God’s eternity.
We join today with woman and men celebrating jubilees of 25, 50, 60, 70, 75 and 80 years in religious life. Quite honestly, as I look at all of you who gather today in our cathedral – many of whom I’ve known for years – I can only conclude that most of you must have entered religious life when you were five! You are amazing! … Collectively, our jubilarians represent over 2,000 years of service to the Church in Consecrated Life. What a blessing we’ve been given in all of you!
My sisters and brothers, we celebrate your lives and we give thanks this day for your unique and singular contribution to the Church. More than you likely realize or appreciate, you continually challenge us to trust in the mercy, love and forgiveness of God – something that many of us in the Church forget, all too often. … Your openness to listening to the needs of God’s people, to dialoguing with them and discerning how we can walk together as sisters and brothers is a sign of your deep appreciation of how the Church best responds to the needs of a suffering world since its earliest days. … And your willingness to engage and serve the people of God – especially in your commitment to work for justice for the marginalized: immigrants, the poor, and all those oppressed by far too many who deem themselves righteous – is a unique and powerful witness to the presence of God at work in our world – especially today.
Finally, what is so inspiring and hopeful about your lives is that all that you do in service of God’s people, you do far more often than not in quiet, simple, loving yet powerful ways – feeding, healing, teaching, praying and building the Kingdom of God. … So much of what you do looks so ordinary and so natural. Yet, your commitment to mission gives life to the risen Jesus in our midst.
In his homily for the World Day of Consecrated Life celebrated earlier this year, Pope Francis reflected upon both the challenges facing those in Consecrated Life today but also the great opportunities that abound in hearts that trust in God’s presence and promise to save. “Brothers and sisters, the Lord never fails to give us signs that invite us to cultivate a renewed vision of consecrated life. We need to do this, but in the light of the Holy Spirit and docile to his movements. … Let us open our eyes: the Spirit is inviting us amid our crises – our decreasing numbers – and our diminishing forces, to renew our lives and our communities. … But let us not waste today by looking back at yesterday, or dreaming of a tomorrow that will never come; instead, let us place ourselves before the Lord in adoration and ask for eyes to see goodness and to discern the ways of God today. The Lord will give them to us, if we ask him – with joy, with courage, without fear.”
My sisters and brothers in Consecrated Life, thank you for opening your lives to the gift and blessings of God’s love and grace. … Thank you for challenging us to put our trust in the God who has filled your lives with hope. … Thank you for inviting us to lift our eyes beyond the finite realities of life that so often overwhelm us in order to experience the goodness of God who carries us through this world into the eternity of heaven. … And thank you for reminding us of the treasure that is ours when we live not so much for ourselves, but for Christ, in service of our sisters and brothers.