Saturday, February 13, 2010

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (Gospel: Luke 6:17, 20-26) If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, then we are the most unfortunate...

Once a month, as you probably know, we try to bring Holy Communion to the sick and house-bound. Since I started here in Renmore almost four years ago, I’m always struck each time I drive around on my first Friday calls, at how many people I used to visit are now dead and gone. For many of them who were living on their own, their houses are sold within a few months, then renovations take place and soon a few family is living there. Of course they are remembered by those who love them, but that is usually just a few people for most of us. Even just here in Renmore I have seen quite a few houses where this has happened. Sometimes I find it hard to remember what the person looked like, as I didn’t know them very well. And now there is another family living in what was their house, getting on with their lives. It always makes me think: what was their life all about? Is that it?

There is a lovely line in the second reading today which I often use at funerals. St. Paul says: ‘If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, then we are the most unfortunate of all people.’ That is really the answer to my question. What our faith in Jesus is all about is the reality of a life after this one. That is where those who lived here in Renmore and all over the world have now gone. If that is a reality for us it will affect how we live this life. And God has taught us that the life which awaits us, is unimaginably beautiful compared to this one, because we will no longer suffer the way we do here. We will have a much fuller life, with the people we love, so long as that is what we choose.

Why am I saying this? Partly because I am very conscious that so many people at the moment, including many who call themselves Christian, live as though this world were everything. I often hear people talking at funerals about the person who has died as though that is the end of their existence. What we believe is the complete opposite and that should give us great hope, not just for those who have died, but for ourselves too. The death and resurrection of Jesus was to make sure it was possible for us to get to this after-life. That is why it is such a mind-blowing event, which we become present to in every mass. God re-opened the way for us to get to this after-life of happiness. That is exactly what the death and resurrection of Jesus was about. That is why St. Paul says, ‘If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, then we are the most unfortunate of all people.’ In other words, if we see this life as everything, then we have completely missed the point.

That is also what Jesus is saying to us through today's Gospel passage. We needn’t be afraid, if it all hasn’t worked out in this life, because there will be perfect justice in the end. Our time of struggling will end and those who have suffered unfairly will be consoled. And in the same way in the first reading we are being reminded that the place to really put our trust is in God and not in the world. The world will let us down. God will not let us down.

There is just one ‘catch’ as you might say, although ‘catch’ is not really the right word for it. The life that God offers us is not a given. It is offered to us freely, yes, but we must also choose it and choose God. We choose it by the way we live, by the way we love. That is why Jesus continually taught that we must try and love God above everything, and love the people around us. Nothing else in this world is as important as learning to love. He asks us to continually try to forgive those who have hurt us and not to judge the hearts of others, since we never know what is going on inside another person. Of course we never manage to live it perfectly, but God doesn’t expect us to live it perfectly; only to keep trying.

Everything is given to us. All we could ask for is offered to us freely, but we are still free to accept or reject it. However, I think that the most important thing for us to remember is that God has created us to reach this happiness, which can begin in this life; and God will make that happen, unless we deliberately stop him. That is why we should never be afraid for those we love, even if they don’t seem to practice their faith as we think they should. We just continue to pray for them and know that God speaks to people in the language that they will understand best.

‘If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, then we are the most unfortunate of all people.’

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