“If we die…”
On Easter Sunday morning in 2019 the Sri Lankan Church was devasted after three churches in the Archdiocese of Colombo were attacked by three Suicide Bombers during Easter Sunday Masses. 269 Catholics were killed and many severely wounded and injured. Right after this horrendous attack I thought the faithful would stop attending services in fear of their lives. But little I knew; churches were packed as usual.
I asked one family about coming to Mass at a time like this and they said, “Father, ‘If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans: 14:8).’ Father, we believe that all those people who died on Easter Sunday are saints now and that is exactly what we need as a Christian Family.”
I cried that day. Death and persecution could not rob them of their Christian hope for life after death.
On this thirty second Sunday of ordinary time, the Church reminds us of the importance of hope fixed on Christ, and on our resurrection in Him. The Church reminds us that if we bravely persevere the temptations, hardships and persecutions of this life, we shall achieve our hope in Christ.
What keeps us going as Christians is the hope that one day our lives would be better. It is the hope that “we shall see God face to face” (Rev 22, 4). It is the hope that, the fullness of life does not reside here on earth, but in the eternal kingdom of God.
The seven brothers (2 Macc 7)
Our First Reading today narrates the story of the seven brothers. This is a typical example of how hope can sustain us. It was more than just eating pork. Rather, it was about God’s command, and their identity as the people of God.
They faced persecution courageously because of the hope they had in God’s promise of eternal life: “It was heaven that gave me these limbs…from Him I hope to receive them again.” How beautiful that is. Even at the point of death they able to believe that there is more to life than death. The lesson we must learn from this heroic act is that we should let the hope we have in the eternal life sustain us always.
Waiting in hope
In the second reading of today, Paul prayed for us. He asked “God who grants us comfort and hope to strengthen us in everything that is good.” Paul wrote to a people, who due to sufferings, persecutions, and hardship expected the immediate return of Christ. So, he wrote to encourage them to wait in hope.
And today’s Gospel is also on hope. That is, the hope in the resurrection of the dead! The Sadducees were only looking for a way to trap Christ. Also, they wanted to justify their belief that life ends here on earth. However, they were wrong. Sometimes many would like to believe so too. Through his discussion with them, Christ reassures us that life does not end here. Hence Paul reminds us that: “If our hope in Christ is only for this life, then we deserve more pity than anyone else (I Cor 15:19). Our hope must not end here because we are on a journey toward eternal life in Christ.
Today, the Church invites us to hold on to the hope we have in the joyful resurrection in Christ. Let us then pray with the psalmist to the Lord: “Keep me Lord as the apple of your eye. Hide me in the shadow of your wings, and I shall awake, with the sight of your glory! Amen!
By Fr. Jude Asitha