Weekend Reflections for 11/4/16
Autumn is in full bloom on the banks of the Mississippi River at White House Jesuit Retreat. The gold and red leaves quiver in the breeze and blow in the wind. It is as if nature were falling asleep before our eyes, preparing for death. A few months from now, the same trees will blossom with new leaves, new flowers, and new life.
A few days ago, we celebrated All Souls days-- praying that our friends and family members would be welcomed by the Lord into His eternal Kingdom. In November, the natural world helps us to ponder the spiritual world, as we look to Christ to bring the dead to eternal life.
Sunday’s Gospel begins with a story-- as the Saducees try to ‘Stump the Messiah.’ “There were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third…” The Saducees were a faction of Jews that did not believe in resurrection; they did not believe in any sort of afterlife, it seems. They present an absurd story to Jesus to trip Him up: “At the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?”
Jesus hears their question, and then He points us to the Kingdom. His Kingdom is not like the kingdoms of this world. Nor is Christ the King is like the kings of this earth. His Kingdom begins here and is fulfilled in Heaven. In Him, the Father deems us worthy to “attain to the coming age” -- that is, to live in His Kingdom now and in the life to come. His plan is that we, too, will experience a bodily resurrection. Jesus died and rose again; He has a Risen Body now. In Him, we will, too. He is like the first tree of autumn to lose its leaves. In Easter spring, His Risen Body brims with life and power. The Risen Jesus is even more fully human than we are. He is the eternal Tree of Life, pouring out life and food for us. Even now, the Eucharist is that seed of eternal life that He offers us at each Mass. This "fruit of the earth and work of human hands" becomes for us the Bread of Life. As this divine seed is buried in us at Communion, more and more we are drawn into His dying and rising.
In this sense, Christian funerals are an experience of trust and hope. We mourn the dead, while in faith we celebrate their entrance into eternal life. We impatiently await the final day when our cemeteries will be emptied, and our risen bodies will be reunited with our spirits. The Saducees try to stump the Messiah. But He is Tree of Life is not a dead and lifeless stump. We are sons and daughters of Heavenly Father. Christ reaches out to pull us out of the grave of sin and death, drawing us into the King’s embrace of life eternal.
Fr Joe Laramie, SJ