Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5, and Luke 20:27-38.
The Liturgy is Creating in Us the Heart of a Martyr for Christ
In regard to the liturgy of the Holy Mass, there is no more of a dangerous thought than the one that advances the notion that we should bring what belongs to the world into the liturgy. We seem to be more interested in bringing the world into the liturgy, than bringing the liturgy into the world. We seem to be more interested in using the finite things of the world to change the liturgy, than using the infinite things of the liturgy to change the world. This peculiar notion is how we found gay masses and clown masses and ethic masses and the so-called ‘liturgical inculturation’ of the mass.
Truly, not far deep down into our souls, I believe we are afraid and scared. We are afraid and scared that the liturgy might actually perform what it proposes; that is, making us like Christ Jesus. Being like Christ Jesus; actually being compelled to be love, to be sacrifice, and to be a Eucharistic People is scary to the natural human heart. It sounds like a hard life. So hard that it sounds much easier to just kill Christ Jesus by conforming Him to the world. Far easier it is to be an assassin of Christ, than it is to be like Christ. This is why there are those who work day and night to destroy everything that is good and true about the Holy Mass. They may hate themselves and they may hate us, but ultimately, they are just afraid and scared of what the liturgy is proposing.
The readings for this 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – C Cycle come to remind us today that God is calling us out of the wilderness and deserts of the world where only death is wished upon and easily found, and into a reborn and resurrected life with Him.
The First Reading from Second Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14, concerns the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother who “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, “acting as their spokesman, said, “What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” Thereafter, each of the brothers and finally their mother received a more gruesome torture and death than the next, but one after the other spoke more eloquently and more passionately about why they were choosing obedience to God over the dictates of the world. When the fourth brother was near death after being maltreated and tortured, “he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.” It is true, if there is no resurrection, then there is nothing in this life that is worth dying for. If there is no resurrection, then everything is just vanity.
Most likely, while the Apostle Saint Paul was still in the city of Corinth, he was occasioned to receive a report from Timothy about the Church in Thessalonica where Timothy had been sent in Paul’s stead. There are good things to report about what is going with the Thessalonians, but also the community there had some questions and concerns about the fate of those who died. There seems to be some confusion going about because of small false teachers they had received; thinking that they were associated with Apostolic Church. In this portion of the letter, found in Second Thessalonians 2:16 – 3:5, the Apostle ask for prayers for the People of God; for their delivery and endurance till the end against the wicked and perverse false teachers who were seeking the destroy their faith. As it was then, it is today. There are those who come dressed as sheep and shepherd, but are nothing but wolves that are seeking to slaughter and scatter the flock of Christ Jesus. Yet, the Apostle reminds us, “But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you, you are doing and will continue to do. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”
In today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus is found conserving with the Sadducees. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, and that is why they were sad, you see. . . . They did not have anything to live for. It seems that one of the issues that they had with the theology of the resurrection is that it contradicted the Mosaic Law, because there could not be some sort of afterlife in which the law of God did not still govern. Therefore, if someone was married in this life, they would still be married in the next. To prove how the theology on resurrection contradicts the Mosaic law, these Sadducees, presented a version of the story from the book of Tobit, where seven brothers all married the same woman, because six of them had died before having a child with that woman, and according to the law of Moses, it was the obligation for “his brother to take up the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.”
Now, being that the Sadducees quite reasonably understood the resurrection to exist within the covenant and, therefore, within the Mosaic Law, their question simply was, ‘After she and all of her husbands are resurrected, whose wife will she be?’ To this question, Jesus responds by making a distinction between this life and the one to come, saying “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘Lord,’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
In power, purpose, and substance, the liturgy of the Holy Mass not only lifts up the resurrection of Christ Jesus as the central mystery of our faith, but throughout its form the liturgy proposes and performs the same reality of the resurrection in our own lives that we heard in the readings today.
Listen to what we confess about the resurrection during the liturgy. Before the Priest begins the Eucharistic Prayers in which he will re-present the sacrifice of Christ and the power of His resurrection, we confess in the Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” Then after, the Priest has offered the prayers of consecration, he turns to the People and asked them to proclaim the mystery of our faith, to which we offer either, “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again,” or “When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup, we proclaim your Death, O Lord, until you come again,” or “Save us, Saviour of the world, for by your Cross and Resurrection you have set us free.” To which the Priest then responds, “Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, the Resurrection from the dead, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, we, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim, the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.”
In substance, the liturgy separates us from the dictates of the world and creates within her offering a divine space that is neither to be penetrated or influenced by the world, nor to be incorporated into its evil. Rather, in substance, the liturgy proposes to offer us something and someone completely other through the resurrection of He who came to be completely like us in every way but sin. That something is eternal life and that someone is our Eternal Father. Every word and every movement at the Divine Symphony reverberates and presses towards those two things.
In power, if the liturgy only re-presented the sacrifice of Christ our Lord, it would be nothing more than comedy or a tragedy played out on a stage. Yet, it does much more than just re-present the sacrifice; it brings forth the power and consequences of the resurrection that are attached to that sacrifice, and it is by our consumption of the resurrected Body and Blood of Christ Jesus that we participate in the power and consequences of His resurrection. Through presenting us Christ resurrected from the Cross, by the power of God, the liturgy shows us an image of our resurrected body that remains forever in the presence of God. The power of the Holy Eucharist in this life is that by our consumption of it, our activities then become consumed by it. As the resurrection of Christ is the central mystery of our faith, so too does the resurrection become the central mystery of our life. People in the world will wonder and marvel why we are at such peace in a world of misery; how can we love in a city of hate; how can we press forward when the gravity of sin keeps everyone else down. Yet, we know and we proclaim that is because we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.
In performance, the song of the Divine Symphony, called ‘Ite, Missa Est’ (go, you are dismissed) commands us to take the resurrection of Christ Jesus back into the same world that gave Him the death penalty because they were scared and afraid of who He was and who He was calling them to be. Such a mission given to us most certainly makes us the same enemies of the world and of the religious established as He was, and it may very well cost us something; perhaps our very life. Yet, what the liturgy wants to show us is that there is only one life that matters, and that life in Christ. Everything else is vanity.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.