Reflection for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
Once upon a time, a farmer started to feel frail, and after some time, he stopped working and could only stay at home while his only son worked all day with his family.
Day after day, the son asked his father to rise and go to the farm because some other older men were still working, but the man had no strength in his bones, and he asked his son to give him more time to recover.
One day, the son came home with a coffin and asked his father to get into it because his life was useless since he could not work. Without saying a word, the man got into the coffin, and the young man closed the lid and dragged it with a rope to a nearby cliff to throw him.
On reaching the cliff, the young man heard a knock on the coffin. Opening the lid, his father cleared his voice and said, “son, there is no need to waste the coffin, just throw me off and save the coffin; your children might need it someday.”
It was at these words that the young man came to his senses. He threw the coffin away instead, took his father home, and cared for him until he became strong and returned to the farm.
Life is indeed precious. The farmer’s wise advice to his son was also an appeal to live. In life, ninety-nine percent of the effort we make is either to preserve life or to enjoy it; nobody wishes to die, but the truth is that death is a facility that is available to all of us. We live to die, but we should die to live again!
The Choice to die!
You may have heard some people say, “over my dead body,”showing how passionate they feel over a situation. The simple truth is that such people are not ready to die; they are just desperate to live or enjoy some life benefits.
To wish to die in any situation means that your object of aspiration is something greater than life itself, but what is greater than life? The First Reading (2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14) gives us the answer. The narrative tells us about a family of seven sons and a mother who chose to dispense with life for a higher value.
The family was among the Jews who were forced to defy the ordinance of God to eat pork meat. It is important to establish immediately that it was a trial on their faith to know if they value obedience to God more than their lives.
One of the brothers speaking for others said: “we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” Furthermore, he said, “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us to “LIVE AGAIN” forever. It is for His laws that we are dying”.
The Gospel of “Living Again”
“When I die, I keep on living” is a line from a song in Real Milli Vanilli’s 1991 album, “Moment of Truth.” Though it is a secular song, that line bears a significant religious truth about the resurrection after physical death.
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 20:27-38), the Sadducees who deny life after death come to Jesus with a weird narrative about a childless woman who married seven men that died successively. They wanted to ridicule the resurrection by asking who would end up being the woman’s husband at the time of the resurrection.
Our Lord Jesus Christ clarified the misdirected minds of the Sadducees by telling them that “Living Again” does not translate to “Marrying Again.” In other words, our Lord said that the marital bond between a man and a woman, though a divine design, ends here on earth, just like other human engagements.
After death, what is most important is rising to live again. Everyone who dies will rise, but not everyone will live again. The Book of Daniel (12:2), which predates the advent of Christ by almost 500 years, says, “multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to eternal shame and contempt.”
Moving Forward: The Keys to Living Again
In one passage in the Gospel of Mark (8:36),Jesus asked: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? This question demonstrates that if we fail to secure our souls in the evening of our lives, we waste life. King Solomon will say it is meaningless and a chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14).
Life is a gift, but heaven (or everlasting life) is not a gift but a reward for living life according to the direction of God. We can learn two important lessons from the story of the seven brothers who were killed because they refused to eat pork meat in agreement with God’s ordinance: trust and obedience.
Trust: Trust is a step ahead of faith, or put it another way, trust is faith in the face of real fear. It is often easy to believe, but more challenging to hold on to what you believe when facing challenges.
The seven brothers did not just believe in God they were sure that God would reward them for being steadfast in their faith. Recall that the third brother said: “It was from heaven that I received these (his hands); for the sake of His laws, I disdain them; from Him, I hope to receive them back again.” This is nothing short of a trustful declaration.
Obedience: Trust and obedience are inseparable bedfellows. We can recall the beautiful Church hymn that says, “trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy with Jesus but to trust and obey.” You need trust to obey, and you need obedience to trust. Obedience is simply the readiness and ability to submit to the demands of a higher authority.
As we continue our march through the corridors of life, let us be more reflective of the life after life. This life as we see it is passing, and death will surely come. It is not so much about the fear of death but the of not living again after death. Remember, you have a soul that needs to be saved; this body will cease to exist one day, but the soul will never die. Let us strive to secure eternal life for our souls.
God bless you