Sunday Homily, 12 November - Fr Paul Rowse, OP
At the resurrection on the last day, the mortal remains of everyone who ever lived will be brought together again. Whole persons will be formed up once immortal souls are reunited with their new bodies. Those judged unworthy will be shut out for ever. Those judged worthy will abide for ever in the Trinity with all the saints, spiraling up in love and light in a world without end.
How on earth do we prepare ourselves for that? Ought we even prepare for it, given the matter is almost entirely out of our hands? After all, God does the raising; we are the raised.
But we don’t want to confuse preparation with power. The power of the resurrection belongs to God; the preparation for it is ours. There will be lingering questions we all have about how the resurrection happens and what it’s like. But conundrums, about replaced body parts and organs and whether there’s oxygen in heaven for our resurrection-lungs, don’t fool us. God’s power to raise the dead will solve them all.
The Lord is telling us that preparation for the resurrection is indeed ours. We can’t pry into the resurrection: we can’t see that far. But we can and must prepare for it: the suggestion goes that the preparation for the resurrection is itself a share in it, an anticipation.
The Good News is, therefore, that we can be ready for the resurrection. The Lord’s parable in the Gospel about the bridesmaids has them outside the bride’s house well before the proceedings are underway. Nothing starts until the bridegroom arrives. When he arrives, there’ll be a procession, a dance, a ceremony, and a feast: but not yet.
The wisdom of five bridesmaids consists in their knowledge of the bridegroom. They know him; they know what he’s like. They know he’s going to leave it until the very last minute. That’s as wise as we need to be: we need to know that Christ, the Spouse of the Church, is going to be (in our eyes) late. He’s “late” for his own reasons: we know he wants sinners to turn, that he’s patent with the complacent, that he wants many more people to fill his heaven.
The Lord we are waiting for is loving and merciful; any delay we might perceive has a purpose for him. He is wiser than we hope to become.
Knowing the Lord as we do, we need to have enough hope to last our lifetime. We hold out a torch for him who is the Light of the World, and who will turn darkest midnight into bright, eternal day when he comes. He is worthy of our best efforts.
We can prepare well for his coming by making efforts to grow in hope. First of all, get rid of all bitterness. Bitter people let their past colour their present and future. Bitterness is a kind of anger born of disappointment. If you know someone who is bitter or have yourself been thus, deal with the disappointment of life in order to become more hopeful.
Also, be around people who are travelling well in the faith. We’re all making our way towards God as best we can, but some really excel in this. We need encouragement. Be with people who love God, who talk about him and relish the opportunity to pray to him.
Then, shape your prayer around your future life in the resurrection. To be hopeful, we need to let the resurrection change our thinking and feeling, wanting and needing. All things worthy of heaven are in Christ.
And do good to all. There should never be a single person who isn’t better off for having met us. Let every “neighbour” of yours know that you wish them well, because they too are destined for resurrection.
All of this comes because we are preparing for glory. We don’t know everything we’d like to about the life to come, but we know that there’s life through death because we have Christ: we know him and know what he’s like. All glory to him for whom we hope.