Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Terrance KleinNovember 02, 2022
crucifix at sunsetPhoto from iStock.

A Reflection for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3: 5 Luke 20:27-38

Everything passes save souls, though we are tempted to think that it is the other way round. The valiant family in the Book of Maccabees already knows this truth, one which will be fully revealed in the resurrection of the Christ.

At the point of death he 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 his laws that we are dying” (2 Mac 7:9).

Martyrs were the first saints to be celebrated by the church. The church correctly sensed that their deaths proclaimed her truth: Everything passes save souls. The world, and all it holds, can be surrendered because it only exists to call us into relationship. To be a person is to be oriented toward others, to find our fulfillment in them. Once that is accomplished, the stage, which we call the world, has served its purpose.

This Christian understanding of the cosmos is quite different from that of many of our contemporaries. They have come to think that the world explains itself. It is the purpose of persons that they find 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 more wonderful still are the minds that seek to understand it and to respond to its creator. St. Thomas Aquinas was not given to overstatement. “The good of grace in one (soul) is greater than the good of nature in the whole universe” (ST I, II, q. 113).

This Christian understanding of the cosmos is quite different from that of many of our contemporaries.

Humanity has never ceased pondering its relationship to the cosmos. A superb example is Shakespeare’s aptly named play, “The Tempest.” Everything seems so strong, but then all is stilled—though perhaps not souls themselves.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep (4.1.148-158).

It is true that our spirits, as they exist in this world, do melt into thin air. We breathe our last and we are gone. But our souls, our word for our deepest selves, live on in Christ.

How do we know this? This is the meaning of the resurrection! Christ remains after death. He retrieves the relationships that were scattered by his execution. He seeks out his friends, not to establish his existence but to complete theirs.

For the disciples, the empty tomb had already proven his resurrection. They knew that they had neither the courage nor the reason to take his body from the darkness. No, something truly extraordinary had happened.

All that stands apart from Christ, all that stands outside a loving relationship with him, passes away forever, into the conscious chaos we call hell.

The purpose of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances is not to prove his triumph over death to his disciples, though he does at least that much. But their greater goal is to reveal the world to be itself ephemeral, something less than the persons who inhabit it.

The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

All that stands apart from Christ, all that stands outside a loving relationship with him, passes away forever, into the conscious chaos we call hell. “Conscious chaos” because hell is the unique combination of the two: utter chaos and the unending consciousness that this separation is what we have chosen for ourselves.

Christ emerges from death to reclaim the person he was. He reveals himself to the disciples. He does not show them the end of all things on earth. He does not show them a world yet to come. Or rather, he shows them both in showing them his person. The world will live on when Christ returns, but the order of existence will be reversed. A tempestuous world, which once tormented us, will burn away. A glorified world yet to come will live on in us.

The people we loved and who we became because we loved, these shall not pass.

When the tempest we call life has stilled, we will finally know that without the resurrected Christ

We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The world is a dream from which we will awake. Even marriage will pass away because it will have accomplished its purpose. Love will have fashioned a soul. But the people we loved and who we became because we loved, these shall not pass.

They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise (Lk 20:36).
More: Scripture

The latest from america

A red book containing sheet music
Results of a poll of 9,000 Christian churches last December were released this Dec. 1. What Christmas carols made the Top 10?
Coast Guard Station Islamorada small boat crew follows an overloaded sailing vessel off Rodriguez Key, Florida, Nov. 21, 2022. Rescue crews battled six to ten feet seas and 25 miles per hour winds to safely remove the people from the vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Robert Collins)
People who hope to escape Haiti’s cholera outbreak and life-threatening insecurity cannot wait for a more welcome climate to emerge in the United States.
Kevin ClarkeDecember 05, 2022
Dan Lipinski, one of the last pro-life Democrats to serve in Congress, calls on the pro-life movement to come together on federal legislation that limits abortion and supports pregnant women and their children.
Daniel LipinskiDecember 05, 2022
jesuit father marko rupnik speaks in front of a microphone
Slovenian Jesuit and artist Father Marko Rupnik has been barred from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction after complaints about his ministry.