The 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 6 November 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: II Mac. 7:1-2,9-14; Responsorial: Psalm 17; II: II Thess. 2:16 – 3:5; Gospel: Luke 20: 27 -38

Jesus, our Strength, our Guard, our Direction

Another year of faith is coming to a close. As it does we look forward to the coming celebration of Christ The King after which a new year of faith begins with Advent. It has been another season of many blessings and many trials. I would expect God has surprised us all in matters of family, inner life, and in our communities, nation, and world. Life for the Christian for our Catholic faith is often as the illustration above would indicate. We seek to follow Jesus in His sacred path of faith and love. But often we encounter those times and places where the path may not always be as clear, as safe, or as simple as we would like. It is especially in those places we need to draw even closer to our Lord. Whether it be in a time and place of easy, blessed peace or a place of difficulty Christ would have us grow in the reality that He is our strength, our guard, and our direction.

Our Bible readings today illustrate two distinct examples of tribulations and testings that can occur following God. The first reading from the Old Testament book of II Maccabees brings us the poignant account of a mother and her sons being cruelly persecuted for their faith in the time of the successors to Alexander the Great in Israel. As the family refused to disobey God’s Word they were tortured and killed. Their path of faith and love for God was one that led to the crown of martyrdom. But in their excruciating final earthly steps, they knew God’s strength, His guarding graces, and direction into the resurrection embrace of God.

It is in the Gospel we read of another time of testing. Jesus is confronted by the Sadduccees in an effort to ensnare him within a web of questions and theology. The Sadduccees, of course, did not believe in the resurrection. So they chose to challenge our Lord on this issue framed in issues about marriage and a proper interpretation of God’s Word. The Law of Moses stated that if a man dies his wife is to be married to his brother. Their challenge was they presented seven brothers. So, who was to be her husband in heaven? This story is interesting on many levels. First Jesus makes clear that the sacrament of marriage is the only sacrament that is focused on temporal affairs. Marriage does not apply in heaven. Next, this lesson reminds us how we are challenged to become ensnared in discussions, debates, and questions that are not concerns given to us by God.

The enemy of our souls strives to bring us into distress and fear by raising questions and matters that either are not our concern or simply do not exist. Satan loves to fuel fear and strife in our faith, our civil life, and our families. Reflect for a moment on issues in the church, liturgical, doctrinal, and pastoral. Great are the temptations to focus only on ISSUES, PEOPLE, and PRACTICES instead of focusing, together, prayerfully on GOD.

In our civil life, the same demonic discord is seen. As we encounter a midterm election the rancor, hate, and strife are guiding many to fear and foment instead of listening, learning, and respectfully working with our shared common values for solutions instead of strife.

These trials, especially as we anticipate and prepare for Christ our coming King of Kings are to be expected. But these trials, these tests, these many questions are not our Lord. As St. Paul reminds us in the epistle today we are called, by God, to be encouraged in every good deed and word. We are reminded that the lies of the enemy may seem powerful. But they are not. They are lies fueling fear, doubt, and strife. The Holy Spirit brings us, instead the Truth, Jesus, who is faithful. Christ will strengthen, guard, and direct us in His Kingdom and the will of God. We must be alert and heed the sources of our inspiration. Social media, political theories, and conspiracies (right or left), sources such as QAnon are popular and powerful. But look to the fruit of these inspirations. Lies, violence, division, and hatred are not the ways of Jesus. The temptations in our faith encounter the same struggles. We are sought to focus upon, language, practices, and faith that apply to only those who believe and live as we do. Christ opened doors and welcomed any who sought Him in simple faith, repentance, and love.

Whatever the place in our life God would have us know that our Lord is our Strength, our Guard, and our Direction.

Jesus our Strength: Whether it be an intense place of persecution or simply questions about our faith, He is our strength. Scripture promises, as our day is so shall our strength be. Our Good Shepherd may well lead us beyond our comfort zones, and our strengths. But God does so only to bring us into His embrace, His strength.

Christ our Guard: Great and powerful are the battles in this world between good and evil. Easy are the temptations to become fear-FILLED as we see the cruel realities of sin and satan in our world. And sadly many Christians seem to place more faith in the evil one than they do in God and His holy promises. But we are not called to be God’s followers with a bunker mentality. Satan and sin were defeated on Calvary. But the Apostles never-the-less hid in their fears. They hid until the power of the Holy Spirit awakened in them the truth that God was their strength and would guard them against evil. How often do we pray the Lord’s prayer? How often do we pray, “deliver us from evil”? It is time to trust in God instead of the evil we may encounter.

Jesus our Direction: So often as we encounter the challenges and tests of life we struggle, wondering, what am I to do? Where is God leading? Jesus will always give us the strength to follow Him. He will guard our way against wrong steps, as we trust him. We would very much like a flowchart or checklist for God’s will for our life. But that would only weaken faith and love and nourish an intellect weakening in trust and love. Jesus is our direction. His holy cross and His Presence will bring us along to where we are meant to be.

It is time to lay aside anything that hinders us from knowing, trusting, and loving Jesus, our Strength, Our Guard, and our Direction.