Don't Settle for Less 2019-11-10 Fr. Roberto
Homily for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic Church, Los Angeles, CA
November 10, 2019
Title: Don’t Settle for Less!
Theme: God wants to give us so much more than we can even imagine, especially at Mass.
Readings: 2Macabees 7:1-2, 9-14; 2Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38
One of my brothers and his wife have always enjoyed going out for dinner to very nice restaurants. They had two daughters, and when the girls got to be nine or ten years old, my brother and sister-in-law began to take them with them to these restaurants so that the kids would begin to appreciate eating fine food. But time and time again, the girls would complain that they did not like the nice French or Italian food or seafood or delicious steaks that were being offered to them at these fine restaurants. Do you know what the girls said they wanted instead? To go to McDonald’s! Can you believe it? The girls preferred a greasy little hamburger and fries to real food, really great food! They were willing to settle for so much less than what was being offered to them.
Well, in some ways, the Sadducees in today’s Gospel are like my two nieces. The Sadducees ask Jesus this tricky and complicated question about a woman married to seven brothers in a row. They all die, so whose wife will she be in heaven? Well, the Sadducees asked this question because they didn’t believe in heaven or in the resurrection. For the Sadducees, this life was it; once you died, you ceased to exist. In other words, the Sadducees, like my nieces, were willing to settle for so much less than what was being offered to them, so much less than what God wanted for them. So, Jesus, in his answer to the Sadducees’ question, was trying to tell them that what God wants for them – and for all of us – is not just this life but eternal life as well! And Jesus tells them that life in heaven is so much more than simply a continuation of this life and the relationships we form here, as good as they might be. God wants so much more for us.
Now please understand, in this Gospel, Jesus is not diminishing the importance of marriage or the other relationships we have in this life; nor is he saying that in heaven our spouses, partners and other loved ones will not continue to be important to us. However, he is saying that, in heaven, even the depth and beauty of the best love on earth will pale in comparison to what God has in store for us. And that is because, in heaven, our human relationships, our human nature, all of our love, joy and goodness will be infinitely intensified, absorbed into and transformed completely by the love of God. You and I cannot even begin to imagine what heaven will be like!
So, my question for all of us today is: Are we, like the Sadducees, willing to settle for so much less than what God wants to give us – not just in eternal life, but also in this life? Unfortunately, I would say that, for many Catholics, the answer is yes. For example, God wants to have a personal and deep love relationship with each one of us, and so often we settle for so much less; we so often settle for a casual relationship with God that involves just saying a few prayers now and then, coming to mass when we feel like it, and just trying to be a good person more or less. What God wants for us is so much more than that kind of superficial relationship!
One of the greatest gifts that God offers to us as Catholics in this life is the mass, and so, in this new preaching series, I want to focus on exactly what God offers us in the mass. In many ways, the mass is at the center of our Catholic faith; it is our most important prayer and act of worship. And yet, I would say that the great majority of us Catholics do not know or appreciate what happens at mass or why it is so important. So, during the coming weeks of this series that is exactly what I want to talk to you about. I will talk about our belief in the Eucharist being the actual Body and Blood of Jesus – it is not just a symbol! I want to tell you that every mass is Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
And today, because our readings speak so forcefully about resurrection and the afterlife, I want to begin this series on the mass by telling you that every mass we celebrate confirms our belief in the resurrection and the afterlife. More than that, at every mass we actually participate in the afterlife because at every mass we join with the angels, the saints and our deceased loved ones in heaven as they worship God. Let me repeat that: at every mass we join with the angels, the saints and our deceased loved ones in heaven as they worship God. You see, right now all of God’s powerful angels, all those saints we admire, and all our loved ones in heaven we care so much about are worshipping God. And when we celebrate mass here on earth we join all those heavenly beings and they are here with us. I am not making this up. This is what our Church teaches, and this is exactly what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says: “…by the Eucharistic celebration [the Mass] we already unite ourselves with the heavenly liturgy and anticipate eternal life, when God will be all in all” (CCC #1326).
Let me explain this to you in another way. Please look at your homily guide on page one. You can see a photocopy of a beautiful and famous painting which depicts God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – living in eternity and being worshipped by the angels, the saints, and all our loved ones who are in heaven. Then, the oval below, where it says “earthly life,” represents all of creation including you and me and all of us human beings here on earth. And in between those two things you see the words “the Mass.” Whenever we celebrate mass, it’s as if we “open a door” or passageway to heaven and eternity that joins us to all those in heaven worshipping God.
So, what I am saying is that right here and right now at this mass, even though we cannot see or hear them, all those people and angelic beings are with us and we are with them as they worship God. Isn’t that amazing? And at every Mass, we have a little clue that reminds us that this is what is happening. It is when the priest says the “Preface” – that is the prayer just before the “Holy, Holy.” The Preface always ends with a phrase similar to the following: “And so, Lord, with all the Angels and Saints, we too, give you thanks, as in exultation we acclaim…Holy, holy, holy,” etc. [Preface VII of the Sundays in Ordinary Time]. So just imagine: the closest you can be to your deceased loved ones is when you celebrate Mass. They are here with you right now and so are the angels and the saints!
Now, the thing is, this joining of earth and heaven happens at every mass, whether it is a daily mass or a weekend mass; whether it is big papal mass with a million people or a small mass with just one or two people; whether it is a mass that is exciting and spirit-filled with great music and preaching or a mass that is deadly boring where the priest puts you to sleep and the music is awful – of course that never happens here at St. Dominic’s, right? In any event, at every single mass, whether you feel it or not, whether you believe it or not, you are joined to heaven and heaven is joined to you because this is God’s gift to you and to all of us in the mass. This is one of the reasons mass is so important for us Catholics.
And so, my brothers and sisters, we are just getting started in having this deeper understanding of what really happens at mass and why it is so important. God offers so much to us at every mass; so please don’t be like the Sadducees in today’s Gospel and settle for less than what God wants you to have, especially at Mass. Don’t settle for mass being simply an obligation that you have to get out of the way, or something you just do now and then when you feel like it. Come to mass every week, join the angels, the saints and your deceased loved ones, give God the thanks and praise that he deserves, and receive all he wants to give you. Amen? Amen!
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