A reflection by Fr. Joseph Young, S.F.M. (1934-2006).
Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time. First reading: 2 Maccabees 7.1-2, 9-14; Second reading: 2 Thessalonians 2.16-3.5; Gospel: Luke 20.27-38.
The difficulties for the apostles, and for those who follow after them, was not that they expected too much but, rather, that they expected too little. Their hopes were not nearly splendid enough.
Christianity is a religion founded on a paradox; the paradox of death leading to resurrection, of defeat leading to victory, of suffering leading to glory. We cannot be pessimists, because we know that death is not the end. We cannot be optimists because we know there must be death. We are a people of hope.
Let us look at the apostles. They wished to root their hope in an earthly kingdom that would eventually pass away, but Jesus told them that He was forming a community that would never pass away. The difficulties for the apostles, and for those who follow after them, was not that they expected too much but, rather, that they expected too little. Their hopes were not nearly splendid enough.
The French philosopher Gabriel Marcel once asked himself what would be the greatest expression of love he could give to someone he cared for very much? He thought of many material comforts and concluded that they were not the greatest expression of love. He went a step further and considered loving devotion and acceptance to the point of laying down his life for another. After a long process he concluded that the greatest gift he could give someone he loved would be the assurance that they would never die.
Peruvian theologian Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez writes, “To be a Christian means believing in the resurrection of the Lord and believing, therefore, that history’s last word is not death but life. I believe the great challenge in the future will be to continue proclaiming life in face of death. This implies many things. It implies many commitments to defend life, justice, and fundamental human rights.”
Our belief in the Resurrection, then, does not mean cherishing a futile optimism in the hope of a happy end; it means that in this world of death, Jesus’ new life has broken the universal rule of death, his freedom has prevailed, his way has led to life, his spirit, which is God’s spirit, is at work. It also means taking the side of life, whenever life is injured, desecrated, or destroyed. When we recall in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil, Christ is risen, He is truly risen, we are crying, “Liberation!” It is precisely this cry that unites us with all of humanity—the poor, the broken, and the oppressed.
“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.” (Luke 20.37-38)
After ordination, Scarboro missionary Fr. Joseph Young from North Sydney, Nova Scotia, was assigned to Guyana in 1961. In 1970 he was appointed to Nassau, Bahamas, for two years. He returned to Guyana in 1973 and served there for the next 10 years, mainly in New Amsterdam. Following his return to Canada in 1983 he was appointed director of Scarboro’s Mission Information Department where he worked until 1988. Fr. Joe was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1986, yet he continued to serve the Scarboro Missions community as his health permitted until his death 20 years later.