Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
November 10th, 2013
Year C

St. Maximilian Kolbe was a brilliant young scholar who earned his first PhD by the time he was 21. As a young priest, he put his knowledge to work by beginning an Apostolate called the Knights of the Immaculata, dedicated to spreading the Gospel through mass media. When the Nazis conquered his native Poland at the start of World War II, his publications vociferously denounced Nazi errors and crimes. As such, the saint was arrested, threatened and released. When he continued to publish criticism of the Nazi regime, he was arrested again and sent to forced labor at Auschwitz. There he publicly acknowledged that he was a Catholic priest. As a result, he received special treatment from the guards: beatings, attacks and the dirtiest and heaviest work: the carrying of the corpses. Through it all, he encouraged his fellow prisoners, telling them: “No, they will not kill our souls... They will not be able to deprive us of the dignity of being a Catholic. We will not give up. And when we die, then we die pure and peaceful, resigned to God in our hearts.” Eventually, he offered his own life in place of a young man randomly chosen for execution. He died a bright beacon of Christian hope in one of history's darkest moments because he was able to keep the bigger picture in mind – the fact that for Christians, death is not the end. Jesus promises us life and the resurrection is our hope for life after death. As such, St. Maximilian was able to witness to the faith by laying down his life.

Seeing the bigger picture is the problem for the Sadducees who pose this question to Jesus concerning the resurrection. The Sadducees are those who think that there is no life after death, that the soul is not immortal. For them everything is about what is earthly, life begins and ends with all that is temporal. They are unable to see past the present life. Quoting Scripture, Jesus shows just how grave is their mistake. God is not God of the dead but of the living – in other words, there exists a permanent relationship between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who have been for centuries. Therefore, though their earthly bodies lie in the sleep of death, they are, in God’s eyes, alive, their souls are immortal and they now await the resurrection of Messiah.

It is the bigger picture – the hope of resurrection and eternal life – that even gives the seven brothers in Maccabees the courage to face persecution. The book describes the persecution of the Gentile leaders of the Jewish people. Their religious practices, customs, and heritage all came under the attack of the Gentile rulers for not sacrificing to their gods. Many caved but many also stood their ground, including the seven brothers. They die, not for the laws of men but for the laws of God – “but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.” A clear indication of belief in the resurrection.

What is the resurrection, what does it mean for us? The resurrection of Jesus Christ from dead is His bodily rising from the dead. This resurrection was no mere appearance. Jesus was still in His human body, He still bore His wounds, and He ate and drank. Yet, at the same time, He had extraordinary abilities – appearing different times and places at will, walking through walls and doors. For us it means that human life does not end with death, that there awaits us the promise of a glorified, risen humanity, and it confirms the identity of Christ. For this is the sign of the defeat of sin and death and our hope that our faith is not lived in vain, that there is exists a place for us in the Kingdom.

ndIt seems, though we can get very confused about how to live our faith. We sometimes, like the Sadducees, fail to see the bigger picture, and fail to see death as a passage to life. We get caught up in living solely in earthly matters and temporal affairs. This is what makes Jesus’ teaching so important. He tells the Sadducees: “the children of this age marry and remarry…” In other words, they live entirely for themselves. They live entirely in the flesh and disregard the spirit. What truly matters is the eternal vision of God and we are meant to live in view of reaching this vision. It is a vision beheld in communion with all the saints and angels, united under the common love of the Lamb of God who sits in the throne. It is this view – the bigger picture of our faith – that gives the martyrs the courage to lay down their lives for God. St. Maximilian knew it and was assured of a place in the Kingdom because he lived His life in the hope of that promise. The same is true for the martyrs in the Book of Maccabees. The pledge of everlasting life gave them the courage to stand strong in their faithfulness to God. These are the heroes, the champions of faith – along with so many others. They all bear witness to the fact that human life does not end in death but rather is seen as a passage to eternal life.

Interestingly, the Greek term for ‘witness’ is ‘martyr.’ It gives a new outlook on what being a martyr means. We are all called to be martyrs – to bear witness to our faith in both word and deed. This could not be more important in today’s world. We are living in a time when God is being driven out of the public square. We are becoming like the Sadducees and losing an understanding of a fundamental aspect of what is means to be human – that we are body and soul, that there is life after death. The time then, is urgent for us to step up and be true witnesses. We are being called, amidst the threat of persecution, to be witnesses, to be martyrs – to live the faith that we profess Sunday after Sunday in word, in deed, in truth and in love. Do we have what it takes to be martyrs of this 21st century? Will we be able to live our faith in view of the bigger picture – in view of eternal life – so as to lay down our lives in witness to Jesus?


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



See other homilies of Fr. Jon Reardon...
Return to multimedia home...


SCTJM logo
Return to main page