32nd Sunday Ordinary Time
Deacon Tom Vert
Preached: November 6, 2022
“It’s time to get back to the fundamentals”
We hear this phrase many times in our lives in different aspects to help a team, a group, a workplace, etc., to get grounded.
How many times have we heard this when a hockey team or soccer team starts get too fancy, too many passes, tricks, etc.
Michael Jordan, the great basketball superstar said, “get the fundamentals down and everything else will rise”.
At work when we were having safety problems at the steel plant, we would stop and take time and remind everyone to get back to the fundamentals of stop, look around, see the hazards and then deal with them. This little reminder made a huge difference in making things better.
It’s all about getting back to the core – what is important? What is critical? What is fundamental?
When we see the gospel today, we see Jesus essentially saying the same thing to the Sadducees.
The Sadducees were a group in the Jewish faith who focused on what was written in the early books of the Bible. They didn’t believe in the resurrection after death and only that our lives ended when our bodies died. They loved to debate with the Pharisees about this as the Pharisees did believe in the resurrection so the theological debates would happen.
The Sadducees wanted to pull Jesus into this debate to see where he stood and so they came up with this extreme example of a woman who had to marry seven brothers and whose wife would she be in heaven.
Jesus avoids the debate by focusing on the fundamentals.
He tells them that they are trying to apply earthly rules and thoughts to heavenly and spiritual things.
Heaven is not just a slightly improved earth, where we have less aches and pains, and the coffee tastes better, but instead it is totally different from what we know; as we hear in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians “eye has not seen, ear has not heard, what God has ready for those who love Him.”
Jesus says that life in heaven is totally different than the one on earth. We will experience life in a totally different way in heaven, we are transfigured into something new, as he foreshadowed in the Transfiguration on the mountain.
Jesus says that in heaven we will continue to be children of God, but we will be more like angels.
He tells the people listening that the resurrection is real, and we will be raised as God promised – “in my Father’s house there are many mansions and I go and prepare a place for you.”
St. Paul reinforces this same message very strongly when he says “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
He reminds the Corinthians that the resurrection is not a concept, but instead it is a promise.
Eternal life is critical to the Christian message; for God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him will have eternal life!
We see this focus on the essentials in the first reading today also. The story is that of the local king upset that the Jewish people would not worship the local gods and so he started to torture and kill the people who disobeyed. The test he used is whether they would eat pork which was not allowed by the Hebrew faith.
Todays’ reading is about one family with a husband, wife and seven sons and how he tried to break their spirit and faith.
The family were true believers and stuck to their fundamental faith in God and would not concede to the local king and all were killed.
We of course have similar stories in our own Christian faith of martyrs who would witness to their love of God even to death. From St. Lawrence the deacon in Italy, St. Maximilian Kolbe from Poland, the Jesuit priests in Japan, and the Christian martyrs in Uganda.
All of these witnessed to their faith in the most extreme way, but they also lead us to think about our own Christian witness and how our lights shine in the world today.
So, what is the lesson we learn today?
It would be “how can we focus on the fundamentals of our faith” in the modern world and not get distracted by the busyness and complexity and craziness of life around us.
A few examples of these essentials can be seen in the 2nd reading today:
- God loves us! Despite our sins and failings, He never wavers in this love for us and is always faithful
- God will encourage us and strengthen us in every good deed! We do not have to rely on our own will power, but through prayer we can rely on Him and know that He will be with us.
- We strengthen each other through prayer “brothers and sisters, pray for us”, which is the same thing that Pope Francis always asks every time he interacts with others. If he needs our prayers, then surely, we need to pray for each other.
And I would add one more from the Book of James “mercy triumphs over judgement”. I think in this day and age that if each of us can have a little more mercy, a little more kindness and a little more love, then the world can be a better place.
It really is “time to get back to the fundamentals”