SUNDAY HOMILY - The Happy Priest: Thirsting for Heaven
Prayer, fasting, penance and ascetical practices are essential ingredients for those of us wishing to avoid a prolonged stay in purgatory.
It is also important that we understand the need to pray for the dead. Since there is a purgatory, it is laudable that we have Masses celebrated for our deceased family and friends. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a powerful tool to free souls from the pains of purgatory. This of course is not to be misunderstood as a continuation of an abuse that existed centuries ago.
However, rather than deleting Maccabees from the canon of the Bible altogether, it is better to understand the correct practice of praying for the dead as practiced through the age old tradition of the Catholic Church.
Finally, regarding the existence of hell, let us consider once again some of the most fundamental aspects of this other dimension of the eschatological teachings of the Church. In his teachings on eternal condemnation, Jesus refers to hell many times; however, in those moments, he always uses descriptive expressions such as "Gehenna," "eternal fire," "the unquenchable fire," "furnace of fire," and "where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."
The teachings of Jesus on the existence of hell are clear. If we deny the existence of hell then we are denying an essential part of Christianity. The reality of hell and the possibility of eternal condemnation constitute for us a daily call to conversion.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, 'eternal fire'. The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (1035).
So, let us go back again to the question of the young man of this Sunday's gospel passage. "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
The answer that Jesus delivers is two dimensional.
In the first place, he reminds the young man, who is a faithful Jew, that he must live out in his daily life the Ten Commandments. The young man answers Jesus honestly and tells him, "Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth" (Mark 10: 20). The young man is a good and faithful man.
But, look and see what happens next.
Jesus invites him to go deeper. "There is one thing that you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me" (Mark 10: 21).
What happens to us when Jesus asks us to go deeper? What occurs in our soul when Jesus calls us to a deeper fidelity and a greater love?
Some people respond with generosity, like Mary, the mother of the Lord. Others really mean well but don't follow through, like Peter.
Unfortunately, there are those who walk away from the Lord, like the young man of this Sunday's gospel passage. "But his face fell at these words and he went away said, for he was a man of great wealth" (Mark 10: 22).
What has always amazed me about this gospel narrative is the fact that Jesus did not plead with the young man to reconsider his decision. Jesus respects the young man's freedom, just like he honors our freedom as well.
However, here is the really good news. For all those who love the Lord and respond to whatever he may be asking of us, there is a reward.
Just consider how this Sunday's gospel passage concludes. "I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land - not without persecutions-now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life" (Mark 10: 29-30).
My dear friends, this past Thursday, we began the Year of Faith with Pope Benedict XVI. Faith is immense gift from God. Let us journey together during this extraordinary time of history as we remember the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
We do live in challenging times, but it is a time for us to be authentic and mature disciples of Christ, thus being witnesses of joy and hope in a troubled world. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.
Let us conclude with a prayer.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the awesome gift of faith. It is through the gift of faith that I can experience your awesome and unconditional love for me. Thank you for the gift of our Catholic Church. What an awesome Church your Son has given to us. In times of struggle and doubt, fill us with a stronger faith. Help us never to be discouraged. Fill us with your peace. Deliver us from evil and help us always to seek your face. Amen.
Father James Farfaglia is a contributing writer for Catholic Online and author of Get Serious! - A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics. You can visit him on the web at www.fatherjames.org and listen to the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: sunday homily, homily, homilies, catholic homily, heaven, hell, purgatory, the rich young man, eternal life, desire for eternity, catechism of the catholic church, Fr James Farfaglia
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