32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Gribowich homily

Good morning, everyone! It’s always great to be back home. My name if you don’t know who I am, is Father John Gribowich, which I recognize some faces here. I taught Central Catholic for about 10 years before I was a priest. Always great to be back home. It’s always the danger that, as Jesus said, that no prophet is never accepted in his native land, so I don’t know where my words will land with you today, but I’ll try my best to share with you what I feel the Lord’s put in my heart.

You know what, this past week up in Brooklyn, where I’m a priest, I participate in something called Dial-A-Priest, and this was a way to kind of interact with 4th and 5th graders at different schools. We would do this all through video conferencing, through a Skype session. And the children are all ready for the priest to show up, and they had all these questions. And of course, like when this happens, you very quickly get humbled, because children ask the darndest questions, right? And the first question that came out to me was, “so if God created the whole world and God created everything, then who created God?”

My gosh, you need like a PhD in Theology to answer some of these questions. And I’m like, “well, no one made God. Next question!”

And of course another question question I got was, “when we die and we go to Heaven, what’s Heaven going to be?” And I’m like, that’s a good question, because when you think about it all of us in some way shape or form ought to ask ourselves the question what is heaven going to be like. And for many of us I think we may just reduce it to being something – well it sounds like a better place than hell, so I guess I want to go to heaven.

But I think that a lot of us will lead to places of thinking of Heaven as some type of place that’s almost akin to like a resort, maybe, and we kind of look at it from a very material way.

Now, that is totally fine, because I think I do the same. In fact, if you ask me what do I expect heaven to be, like I said well you know I think I really expect heaven for me to be like, walking into like a really nice old-fashioned Irish pub, having Guinness after Guinness, and in the corner will be Bob Dylan and his band playing for all of eternity and I’ll be sitting next to Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley and I’ll be pretty content. As you can tell, I love Guinness and I love Bob Dylan and I love Irish Pubs, so that’s kind of what I want heaven to look like for the rest of the rest of my eternal life.

But the fact of the matter is that no matter how grandiose of an idea we could place in our minds of what looks like, the reality is that heaven is not a place as much as it is a relationship. Heaven in itself is a relationship.

Now of course the question is its relationship with who and I think probably would think well I guess the default answer is God. It is a relationship with God, and of course that’s true, but I think that what heaven is, it is a place where we are able to be in a perfected state of relationships with each other.

And when we think about it, what we really desire in this world are perfected relationships. We desire us to get along with people, right? If we look at it on a grand scale, then we would love it if we live in a world where there was no war, wherenNations got along, right? And there was no Injustice, that there was no poor people, or are there people suffering from other types of inequalities. We would love it if there was this great harmonious type of existence, and of course we thow up our hands saying it will never happen, but of course there are many people working for justice and in our own local world in our own global families, we realize how painful it is when children don’t talk to their parents, or when there’s alienation between siblings, or when just our neighbor just treats us in a way that just we can’t figure out why they’re doing what they’re doing.

All of us struggle with the relationships in our lives and we wish that somehow everything was right, but there was a genuine harmony and basically what we’re desiring what we were desiring that harmony, we’re getting along perfectly and enjoying each other’s company and loving each other and receiving the fullness of love. When we are desiring those things in our world, that’s simply proof that we are desiring heaven, we are desiring a place where are we are in harmony with our brothers and sisters. Because the proof of heaven is revealed through our desires. Why would we have desires that cannot be fulfilled?

We have lots of very easy desires, right? I’m hungry – I go open up the fridge, I eat something: fulfilled, right? I want a beer, I go to the pub, I get a Guinness: fulfilled.

The reality is that the desires in our hearts push us to seek higher things, to seek things that do not actually end – to seek a perfected state. We’re hardwired to not want to die, which is why we fight against death.

Now at the school that I go to, there’s signs around like, kind of talking about the different accomplishments that the university has been able to do over the last few years, and one of the signs, banners said, “Living to 125: a Reality.” I sit there thinking about that, like, do I want to live to 125? I don’t know why in the world anyone would want to live to 125, but you can tell that the reason why that’s such a great accomplishment is because we don’t want to die.

We fear death and the reality is that none of us can escape it, even if we had all the science in the world that makes us live to another 50, 60 years. Death is always around the corner, because we know of how many times a very tragic thing happens. As I always say, we can walk out the church today and be hit by a bus, right?

Life is very fragile, but yet we desire to live, and the Lord today in the Gospel is really showing to us something about that desire. The whole teaching of this Gospel is all contingent upon who Jesus is speaking to, just like those 4th and 5th graders were trying to get me with their questions. Well, the people who are trying to get Jesus in this Gospel are this group of Jews known as the Sadducees. And the Sadducees, well they didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they were sad, you see?

[pause] Oh, that didn’t go over too well – it’s too early. [groans]

Anyway, they were always looking at the things of this world as being an end in themselves and the Sadducees were very comfortable people. They were the ones who have a lot of well in a lot of position in society, so in their minds the way that God would reveal His blessings was by them having a lot of things in the world – a lot of material stuff, a lot of status. That was a sign of God’s blessing. This idea of heaven was like that was like, not necessary in their theological worldview because they had heaven on Earth if you will.

So of course they are trying to trap Jesus and saying, all right, so if we get married here and you have a situation where people are married five, six, seven, times, who were they married to in heaven? Jesus reveals that is, like, marriage doesn’t exist in heaven – it’s something that exists here.

And I think that we have to ask ourselves the question, what is the vocation of marriage ultimately doing for us. In a very real localized way it’s helping us to perfect a relationship with another. Which is why we are married for life, we enter a commitment, and we also believe that somehow God blesses and graces that commitment. Because what that is, is a preparation for eternity, and then in eternity we’re no longer have to be working at our relationships and perfecting them, but they are perfected in God’s eyes. The same God who wills each and everyone of us into existence in the first place. The same God who provides for us each and every day. The same God who helps us through the ups and downs of our married lives. That same God is who is waiting for us in heaven to allow us to experience that which is in the deepest desires of our heart, which is harmony with our Brothers and sisters

So, today at this Mass as we receive Jesus, maybe we recognize that we are not just given the strength and the grace to be in communion with God but we’re given the strength in the grace to be in communion with each of our brothers and sisters. The body of Christ at the altar strengthens the body of Christ that we all are. That is one in the same.

May we pray for each other – not so much to think that we need more things, or we need to acquire even the perfect state of heaven where we have everything the way we wanted.

Let us pray today to empty ourselves to be the person God wants us to be, for our brothers and sisters.

May God bless you all.

32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Fr. Smith homily

Today’s gospel reading may seem arcane at best and ludicrous at worst. Yet it is serious and raises a crucial question for both the Jews and Christians: “What happens to the good person after death? 

The Sadducees did not believe in immortality in the Greek sense of the word. The Greek belief that purely spiritual soul was separated from the person at death to exist independently for all eternity was incomprehensible. Like the Pharisees they thought that humanity required having a body. Unlike the Pharisees the Sadducees did not believe that our body was resurrectedwhich our first reading showed meant restored and returned to the person at “the end of the world”, but held that the person lived on in their families. That is why a brother had to marry a deceased brothers wife if she was childless. The deceased brother could live on only in his children. We laugh as one brother after another married this unfortunate woman but for them it was not a laughing matter at all. They may have desired to put Jesus on the spot but it was not done frivolously.  

If people of our time were to object to a rather literal understanding of the resurrection of the Body, we would mostly ask where would all the people be put. They would take up too much space. That was not a pressing issue for the Sadducees. They were more concerned about community. The legitimacy that marriage provided for lineage was the most important issue. When Jesus says that in the coming age people neither marry nor are given in marriage he is challenging their beliefs to their core. Why should they believe him, indeed why should we? 

St Lukes answer is fascinating and beautifully crafted.  

After Jesus’ execution, Mary Magdalene and the other women go to the tomb and discover that it is empty. Two men in dazzling garments tell them that He is risen as hH said. What this means is revealed to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They meet Jesus and do not in any way think He is a ghost or spirit. He reveals himself to them and then disappears. He reappears seemingly out of nowhere as they were telling their story to the apostles in the upper room. He is not a ghost nor is he a zombie: He has a real body, He is risen.  

So what? 

It could seem as this is a nice way for Jesus to tell us that He has won and that we should follow him here so that we can also be risen and to go to heaven. True enough, but insufficient and no Jew would have made that mistake. That Jesus has been risen NOW means that the new world he promised has begun NOW. There are consequences not only in how we are to act, but why. 

Matthew and Mark as well as Luke tell us that Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom. The Kingdom is harmony between god and humankind, among all people and with nature. It begins with his resurrection. It will not be completed on earth but it is our task to make it as present as we can here and now. The Kingdom is not made real by our eloquence but by our actions. 

We have a perfect example of this with the recently concluded synod on the Amazon. The church called Bishops but also lay leaders to Rome to discuss the needs of this important region.  Disharmony reigns on every level. The Amazon is the lungs of the world and is being destroyed by carelessness and greed. This is maintained by an unjust use of power that has reduced many indigenous people to virtual slavery. The church is the only institution capable of combating it but because of lack of access to the Eucharist, antiquated notions of leadership and a failure to use the actual cultural expressions of the people, the church discovered that she too needs reform. The demands of the kingdom are immediate because Christ IS risen here and now and here and now we are called to manifest our rebirth. 

Too often envisioning the afterlife can become a parlor game. This is pointless and unscriptural: St Paul tells us: 

Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, 
Nor have entered into the heart of man 
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor 2:9) 

Paul also tells us: But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Cor 15:20)

We must then ask if we have been raised with him what fruits of the Kingdom have been born through us. 






32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Resurrection of the Body To Come; Active Discipleship Today

The Last Judgment, Michelangelo, 1536–1541, Sistene Chapel (zoomed-in view of central figures).

2 Maccabees 7:1–2, 9–14
November 10, 2019

The books of Maccabees can be confusing and have been very controversial over the centuries. Luther and the other reformers banished both books from the Bible because of praying for the dead and thus providing an opening for Purgatory (2 Mac. 12:38–46). Its clear statement on the resurrection of the body, not merely immortality, has made some Jews very uneasy as well. The seeming passivity applauded in 2 Maccabees has annoyed those of a more activist bent who fully endorse 1 Maccabees. Yet there is great wisdom to be found in them both.

Today, we read from 2 Maccabees and the first confusion is that it was completed before 1 Maccabees by a different author with a different theology about persecution and resistance. They do however share a common origin in the relentless assault on Jewish customs and worship by King Antiochus IV. This began around 200 BC with educational “reform” and culminated with his demand that Greek gods be worshiped in the temple at Jerusalem. We have looked at this historical situation previously in some detail, but will now look at its spiritual dimension.

Continuing this false worship would have ended Judaism. Some people, mostly the rich and powerful who did not wish to lose their positions, consented, sometimes indeed enthusiastically. Others however resisted. There were thus, as always, two principal options. The first was armed resistance. These books take their name from Judas Maccabaeus who led the eventually successful guerrilla movement. The story of his family is related in 1 Maccabees. However, there is the opposite approach of prayer and martyrdom. This is the approach proclaimed in 2 Maccabees. The tone of the book is set in the chapter before this with the martyrdom of Eleazar, an elderly and highly respected scribe. He was told that he had to publicly eat pork, for him a grave sin. When he objected his friends, who had previously capitulated, told him that he could bring food of his own choosing escaping the death penalty (2 Mac 6:22).

His response: Continue reading “32nd Sunday Ordinary Time – Resurrection of the Body To Come; Active Discipleship Today”