Wednesday, June 1, 2005

MH - The God of the Living

Today is the feast of St. Justin Martyr, and the celebrant at the morning's Mass at St. Olaf, Fr. Quinn, brought together this event and both readings (which is not always easy) in an excellent homily on the meaning of suffering and Christ's Crucifixion, which I'll attempt (poorly, as usual) to summarize below.

The first reading, from Tobit, tells of the sufferings experienced by Tobit and Sarah. In both cases, the sufferers yearn for death (Tobit: "Lord, command me to be delivered from such anguish; let me go to the everlasting abode; Lord, refuse me not.For it is better for me to diethan to endure so much misery in life,and to hear these insults!" Sarah: "It is far better for me not to hang myself, but to beg the Lord to have me die, so that I need no longer live to hear such insults."), and in both cases they turn their lives over to God - "do with me what you will." For their faith they will be rewarded. This is echoed in the Psalm, in which we see the outlines of what we must do: "To you, O Lord, I lift my soul."

Mark's Gospel features yet another challenge to Jesus from the Sadducees who, in the story of the seven brothers who in turn married the same woman, ask Jesus which of the seven will be her husband when they rise from the dead. Jesus' response is one of his most famous:
As for the dead being raised,have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled."

Our God is a God of the living, not of the dead, and we too are greatly misled if we think our suffering is a deadness that serves no purpose. It is in fact dead, if we do not offer it up to Jesus. But with Him our suffering is reborn; it is not dead weight, but comes alive when we unite it with Him on the Cross; just as He rises from the dead, our suffering will rise with Him, for the benefit of ourselves and others.

So in the suffering which Tobit and Sarah endured, in the martyrdom of St. Justin, and in the trials we face every day, we see the analogy to the suffering of Christ on His Cross. We know the rest of Christ's story: He rose on the third day and ascended into Heaven. We can rest confident in the knowledge that our suffering will do the same when we unite it to Him.

For as He said, "He is not God of the dead but of the living."

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