Christ the King Catholic Church
As we gather for our Eucharist this weekend, we are nearing the end of the Church Year. Today is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday we will celebrate the 33rd Sunday and, then, the following Sunday we will conclude the Church Year with the great Feast of Christ Our King. And the Sunday after that, we will begin a new Church Year with the First Sunday of Advent.
During these final weeks of the Church Year, the Church gives us readings that are meant to turn our thoughts to the 'last things." The last things are: death; judgement; heaven; purgatory; and hell. Time passes. The end of another Church Year is a reminder of just how quickly time passes. For Christians time is not just a succession of random moments, but a movement, guided by God, that is leading to a conclusion.
Our Church doesn't want us to lose sight of this 'conclusion'. We live the moments of our life on earth in preparation for and in anticipation of this 'conclusion'. Ultimately, time is leading to that day when Jesus will return and will hand everything over to the Father, and God will be all in all. The Kingdom of God will be fully established among us and all of human history will reach its fulfillment.
Before that time of Jesus' return and the culmination of human history, another time may come for many of us. That time is the time of our death. Life on earth is an amazing gift. But it has a beginning and an end. Our lives on earth have an expiration date. From the moment we are born, we know that we will die.
We live, however, in a culture that is in denial of many things and its greatest denial is the denial of death. Life on earth is finite. As Christians we have an understanding of time that gives us a special perspective. God is lord of history. God is Lord of human history as it unfolds in time and God is lord of our own personal history.
Jesus has told us that He is the alpha and the omega - the beginning and the end. We come from God and we return to God. And the time between our coming from God and our returning to God is our 'Kairos'. The Greeks had two words for time. One is 'chronos' - from which we get the word 'chronological'. Chronos is the ticking of the clock - the passing of seconds and minutes. The 'Kairos' is the
possibility and potential contained in the passing of time. The time between our birth and our death is our personal 'Kairos'. The idea ofKairos is expressed beautifully in the words of the wise person who once said, "My life is God's gift to me. What I do with my life is my gift to God." The goal of all human life is to make of our life a beautiful gift to God with the time we are given.
While our culture would encourage us to deny death and the reality of death, our Church, as a good Mother, encourages us to live every moment of our lives in preparation for death. To live our lives with our eyes fixed on the goal.
In the Gospel today, Jesus is confronted by a group of Sadducees. The Sadducees were a religious group within Judaism that was made up primarily of priests. The Sadducees only accepted the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, as the word of God and the source of faith. They did not find any mention of life after death in the Pentateuch, and, so, they rejected the idea of the resurrection.
For them, life came to an end at death. The only way a person could 'live on' was through offspring. For that reason we find in the Old Testament rules and regulations ensuring that a man had sons to carry on the name.
The Sadducees were often at odds with another group within Judaism, the Pharisees. The Pharisees, who accepted all of the books of the Old Testament as part of Hebrew Scripture, believed in a resurrection of the just.
So, in today's Gospel, a group ofSadducees come to Jesus and attempt to make fun of his claim that there is a resurrection of the dead. They use a complicated and ludicrous example of man who dies without leaving children. According to Jewish custom, the man's brother would take his widow and provide the man with children. In the case presented to Jesus seven brothers die, each one dying without children. The question they ask of Jesus is, "Whose wife will this woman would be in the afterlife, since all seven brothers had been married to her?"
Jesus responds by saying that the categories of life that we know here on earth
' cannot be applied to the afterlife. It's like the difference between a seed and the full grown plant that comes from the seed. There is a qualitative difference between life as we know it here on earth and life as we will know it in heaven. In heaven God will be all in all and our experience of love will be incomparable to what we experience here and now even in marriage and in deep friendship.
In answering the Sadducees, Jesus quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth and fmal book of the Pentateuch, one of the books that the Sadducees did accept as
the inspired word of God. Jesus points out that once, when speaking to Moses, God identified himself by saying, "I am the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob." He didn't say, "I used to be," or "I was," but, "I am." Even after death, they belong to God, for God is God of the living and the dead. To God, all are alive.
Jesus refutes the Sadducees and affirms the reality of the resurrection. We are born, we die and we are born again to a new life. What this life will be like we can only imagine. Just as a child in the mother's womb cannot imagine what life outside of the womb will be like, neither can we imagine what life will be like after death. We can only imagine what heaven will be like. Saint Paul once told us, "Eye has not seen and ear has not heard and it has not so much as entered the mind of a human being to know what God has prepared for those who love him."
While it might be fun to ponder what heaven will be like, the important thing is to use the time we are given here and now, well. The time between our birth and our death is important. It's not simply a matter of 'passing time' as we wait for heaven. The time between our birth and our death is our Kairos. It is the time between two events which is filled with potential, preparing us for another time - the time of our life.
Our society today in many ways would echo the pagan philosophy, "Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die." And many people today live their lives in this way. Our Christian philosophy is different. How we live this time between our birth and our death is important. It is not simply the succession of many moments. The succession of moments that is our life on earth is leading to something - something far greater than what we can experience or even dream of here and now. How we live this time will determine what our eternity will be like. If we live it well, heaven awaits us and the ultimate fulfillment that God wants for all of us. If we are careless with this time, we run the risk of delaying that ultimate fulfillment in purgatory where some much needed remedial work will be done. And if we squander entirely this gift of time between our birth and our death, we risk forfeiting entirely in hell the ultimate fulfillment for which we were created. We run the risk of an eternity apart from God in which there is eternal restlessness, rather than eternal peace.
As we come to the end of the Church Year, the Church, as a good Mother, reminds us of the reality of life after death and reminds us of the importance of the choices we make here and now, for these choices will determine our future - an eternal future. May we use well our Kairos, the time that God has given us and may we recognize it for the gift that it truly is.