Fr. David’s homily November 6, 2016.
(This is Fr. David’s last homily at St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh)
I don’t know if you ever read the news and observer column written by Rabbi Marc Gellman entitled “God Squad.” On Thursday his column was in honor of Bob Dylan. You might have heard that Bob Dylan was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in literature. Now I’ve always been an admirer of Bob Dylan and his music. Even as he gets up there in age his music has a spiritual dimension to it. Rabbi Gellman quotes the philosopher Emmanuel Kant: “Faith without music is empty and music without faith is blind.” An interesting statement. “Faith without music is empty and music without faith is blind.” Not sure I know what it means. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Gellman might well have quoted the philosopher Plato who said that: “Music is the way religion is taught to the young.” The revolution in music caused by the Beatles unleashed a change in lots of things, including religion. Gellman also says that Dylan may be one of the few bridges between truth and beauty in popular culture. For me, Dylan’s music always touches on relationships, and the choices one makes for tender human relationships that last. He goes beneath the surface of life. Take the song: “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
“You may be an ambassador to England or France;
You might like to gamble, you might like to dance,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody,
Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”
Dylan’s best song, acclaimed by all the critics, is, of course: “Like a Rolling Stone.”
“I’m a rolling stone,
I’m alone and lost/for a life of sin I’ve paid the cost.”
Not getting drugs or money,
For without God’s love we are indeed all alone.”
Dylan’s music refocuses the simple choice of faith. We either know that God is bigger than us or we make ourselves into a God. These are real truths not because Dylan says so. They are the core critique of deep faith over secular culture that promotes greed over service, self-adornment over self-abnegation and cruelty over charity. The real truth of his songs and modern culture and Dylan’s best instincts are that without God’s love we are indeed all alone.
“How does it feel.
How does it feel to be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?”
Let me turn to today’s Word of God. Jesus is always speaking about relationships. They’re the secret of life. He knew that.
The man pleading for his sick child.
Twelve companions, relating to each other for three years, on the same mission of preaching God’s love and presence and forgiveness.
A woman, rejected and accused, embraced by him
who becomes his companion as his life unfolds.
A forgiving father embracing a prodigal son.
Relationships in this life…what will they be like in the next? That’s the question the gospel addresses. Jesus quickly brushes aside the logic of the Sadducees. They presumed that life after death continues more or less the same as it is in this life. Death, in such an example, is just a blip on the screen, a brief and inconvenient interruption between two lives–the life before death and the life after. We who believe in the resurrection do the same when we try to imagine the next life. We paint it to look a lot like this one—only a lot better! It will be a happy place where we won’t have to work or go to school. No more homework, no more credit card bills, no mortgage. Summer peaches will always be in season. The fairways will always be green. Sounds nice! But what about our relationships? Jesus interrupts our projections about the future life. He doesn’t give us the precise description we would like to have. He doesn’t say that the next life is just a continuation of the life we live here. He says that we will continue to be who we are here, with the relationships we have with our spouse, our family, our friends. We’ll all be “children of God, ” he says. Realizing in a much more intense way the love that joins us to the ones we love and to him. For to love once is to love forever.
This is what we put our faith in. The God who created our beautiful world; the God who gives us family and friends to love, the God whose loving and forgiving face Jesus revealed to us. When we die we will fall into the loving arms of that God forever, and the loving arms of those we have loved. And God will never let us go. We will live as “the children of God.”
You who are parents want to give your children the very best you can. You want to make them as happy as humanly possible. You want to have them close and provide security and peace for them. Well, God has that intention for us—forever. That’s the God whose children we are. That is also the God who feeds us at this Eucharist so that we can be nourished as we struggle to hold together and rejoice in those wonderful relationships that give us life here and in the life to come.
So don’t just be a rolling stone. You’re not alone, not now, not ever.
David J. McBriar, OFM
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out ‘Lord,’
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”