Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Homily: 32nd Sunday of the Year

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! Amen.

“It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said ‘What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.’”

1. My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our readings today all speak of the resurrection of the dead and life after death, but that’s not what I am going to preach about today. Something else in our readings today, especially in our first reading, struck me while I was reading and praying over it. The theme that seemed to jump off of the page was that of family and heritage and history, a theme which is at the heart of this parish family, a theme which is at the heart of who we are as Roman Catholics in the twenty first century.

2. One of the things I have liked to do since my childhood when I was growing up in Milbank is to pray my rosary while walking in the cemetery. I find it to be a very peaceful and quiet place to pray, but also a place which reflects the great heritage and the great history of our families. Just the other day I was doing this very thing in our parish cemetery and I was once again reminded of the value of family, the value of our common heritage that has been passed on from one generation to the next, down to this very group of people gathered here today. It was the men and women buried in that cemetery who gave birth to us, who raised us, and most importantly, who passed on to us our Catholic faith, our strong moral fiber, and our life of prayer and devotions. It was the men and women buried in that cemetery who out of their faith and love for God built this very building with the labor of their own hands and the sweat of their brow. It was they, our ancestors, who gave us this great gift, who built for us this place in which to offer sacrifice to God and nourish the faith which they instilled in us.

3. The brothers Macabee who we hear about in our first reading understood the great gift which their ancestors had passed on to them in their Jewish faith. Their parents, especially their mother, had instilled in all seven of them the great value of their faith, of the laws which guided their life, and the way in which they worshiped God. It was their faith in what had been passed on to them from their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents which gave them the strength to say “We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” Their faith ran deep through the generations. Their faith was so deep, so rooted in history and family, that they were willing to endure some of the greatest cruelties ever recorded in order to hold firm to what their ancestors passed on to them. What an amazing example for our world in which so much of what was passed on to us from our ancestors is easily discarded as old fashioned, archaic, or irrelevant. As people of modern society we all too often have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. We have all too often been unfaithful to the heritage and traditions which our ancestors worked so hard to instill in us. This is why it is so important for us as a parish to remember our ancestors and what they did for us. This is why it is so important that we be good stewards of what they have passed on to us, whether it is this beautiful building or whether it is our strong work ethic. As good stewards of God’s gifts we should seek to preserve, and in some cases even restore, what they worked so hard to give us.

4. The other thing that struck me about this reading was that all seven brothers, along with their mother, remained united and steadfast when they were confronted with hardship and death. They, as a family, supported one another in their darkest day. Something tells me that if they did not all hold firm, that if even one of them had left, that they might have all left and denied their faith, their family, and the heritage given them by their ancestors.

5. This is why it is so important that we, as individual families, but also as a parish family, support one another; that we stick together, that we never, for any reason whatsoever abandon the faith entrusted to us by our ancestors. Because if one of us leaves, the rest are affected - it brings down the whole family. So let us be strong, let us embrace the faith traditions given to us by our ancestors, let us stick together through thick and thin, so that as one family, whole and entire, we can support and uphold one another when the faith of our Ancestors is threatened by outside forces as it is today. Our ancestors gave their blood, sweat and tears so that we might worship freely as Roman Catholics. So let us stick together as a family when so many in our world tell us that this very faith we believe, that our life of prayer and devotion is old fashioned and irrelevant to the modern world. Let us, along with the brothers Macabee and their mother proclaim that we would rather die than abandon the Catholic faith and traditions passed on to us by our ancestors.

6. My parish family, let us be strong, let us be united, let us be men and women of faith no matter what people might say or think. For by standing firm we will one day be given the inheritance reserved for those who keep the faith to the very end; we will be given the kingdom of heaven.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with insults, have mercy on us.
Mary, gate of heaven, pray for us.
St. Rose, pray for us. Amen.

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