Our Faith helps us to endure Suffering

Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Recently I heard a program on EWTN in which Fr. Benedict Groeschel told how he and a religious brother in his community, Bro. Fidelis, and retired 83 year old Bishop George Lynch, were sent to jail because they knelt down praying the Rosary in the parking lot outside an abortion clinic. He said the offence was not praying the Rosary, but that they knelt down. The bishop was sent to jail for 15 days, the religious brother for 10 days and Fr. Benedict Groeschel for 5 days. They were strip searched three times during the first twenty four hours. When asked afterwards how they were treated Fr Groeschel said, “like garbage, like garbage.” It is an example of suffering for one’s faith. There are many other examples we could call to mind. Think of all the bishops and priests behind the Iron Curtain who were sent to prison before the collapse of communism. (One example is Cardinal Swiatek)

There are also many ordinary humble everyday examples of people suffering for their faith that are closer to home. Think of one member of a family who is misunderstood and ridiculed because they pray or go to Mass. Think of children in school in our country who are afraid to admit to their peers that they go to Mass. Think of the people who come to Mass here but would not want to be considered religious in a pub conversation because their reputation would be finished. There is a sense in which it is true to say that now Christians are “like lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:3)

It reminds me of the first reading (2 Macc 7) in which we heard of a Jewish mother and her seven sons suffering persecution because they refused to eat pork forbidden by the Jewish law. One of the sons said, “We are prepared to die rather than break the law of our ancestors.” (2 Macc 7:2) What was it that gave them the strength to endure such torture? What is it that gives so many of our present day the strength to endure suffering? It is faith, belief in the existence of the next life, faith in the resurrection, belief that all the wrongs of this life will be put right in the next life. For that reason in the first reading one of the sons said, “you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up.” (2 Macc 7:9) Another said he hoped to receive his dismembered limbs again in heaven. The fourth son also said he was “relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him.” (2 Macc 7:14)

Our faith in God, faith in the resurrection, and our love for Jesus, help us to live with any pain there may be in the present. We believe that all wrongs will be righted in the next life. We sometimes wonder what heaven will be like. It will be completely different to what we experience now. In the Gospel (Luke 20:27-38) Jesus said there is no marriage in heaven. Marriage is for this life only. So heaven is completely different to this life. That is why John says in his first letter, “we are already children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.” (1 John 3:2) Looking forward to heaven helps give us the strength to endure present trials.

Because of their faith in the resurrection the Jewish family in the first reading endured suffering. Because of our faith in the resurrection we are able to endure suffering now. We do not know what the next life will be like, but we know that what awaits us gives us the courage to suffer for our faith now if necessary. Therefore I conclude with the words of Paul in the second reading:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father who has given us his love, and through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say. (2 Thes 2:16)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Thirty-Second Sunday Year C

The Resurrection - They are like Angels 2010

Related Homilies: The Resurrection - the glorious future awaiting us

Belief in the Resurrection (excerpt of funeral homily)