2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Thessalonians 2:16-3-5; Luke 20:27-38
Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen November 6, 2022
Everything passes away except our souls, yet we are tempted to think that it is the other way around. The family in today's First Reading from the Book of Maccabees already knows this truth. And many more people will come to understand this truth when it is revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. At the point of death it was said: "You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for God's laws that we are dying." Martyrs, those who had put their faith and trust in God, were the first Saints to be celebrated by our Church. Our Church correctly sensed that their deaths proclaimed this truth: "Everything passes except our souls." The world, and all it holds, everything can be surrendered, because it only exists to call us into a relationship. We are called to be a people in relationship with others, to find fulfillment in them. Once that is accomplished in our life, once that stage has been reached, that which we call the world has served its purpose. Christian understanding of the cosmos is quite different from the belief of many other people. Many people have come to think that the world somehow explains itself. They believe the people who live in this world to be the great mystery. Our faith sees it the other way around. We see the world as worthy of the wonder we give it, but even more wonderful are our minds that seek to understand our world and to respond to our creator. I believe it was Saint Augustine who once said: "The good of grace in just one soul is greater than the good of nature in the whole universe." Throughout time people have never ceased pondering their relationship to the cosmos. Shakespeare said it well: "As I have told you, we are all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air. We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded in sleep." It is true that our spirits, as they exist in this world, do melt into thin air. We do breathe our last and we are gone.
But our souls, this word we use for our deepest selves, live on in Christ Jesus. How do we know this? This is the very meaning of the resurrection! Jesus remains after death. Jesus retrieves the relationships that were scattered by his execution. He seeks out his friends, not to establish his existence but to complete theirs. For his earliest followers, the empty tomb had already proven the resurrection. They knew that no one had the courage, nor a reason, to take his body from the darkness. No, something extraordinary had happened. The appearances of Jesus, after the resurrection, is not to prove his triumph over death, although he does at least that much. No, the greater goal, is to reveal that this world in which we live is far less important than the people who live on it. Here is a part of a poem which I have remembered from my youth: "Once in Persia ruled a King, whom upon his ring, carved a saying, true and wise, which when held before his eyes, would give him counsel at a glance, fit for every change and chance, and those words, well these are they, 'even this will pass away'." Yes, all that stands apart from Jesus, all that stands outside a loving relationship with him, passes away forever. Yet Jesus emerges from death to reclaim the person he was. He reveals himself to those who follow him. He does not show them the end of all things on earth. He does not show them the world yet to come. Our world will live on when Jesus returns, but the order of existence will be reversed. A world which once tormented us will burn away, A glorified world, yet to come, will live on in us. Our world is but a dream from which we will awake. All will pass away, because it will have accomplished its purpose. But the people we loved, and who we became, because we loved, these shall not pass. "They can no longer die, for the are like angels; and they are the children of God, because they are the ones who will rise."