To Judge the Living and the Dead

(May 24, 2020)

I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis

Bottom line: Although we naturally fear judgment and accusations, Jesus sends the best defender - the Holy Spirit who heals our world, our hearts and our memories.

This Sunday we celebrate Jesus' ascension "to the right hand of the Father". We are coming to the end of the strangest Easter season ever. This crisis has caused us to return to basic questions. Who are we? Why are we here? Who is Jesus?

Today's first reading says that Jesus "presented himself alive to them by many proofs". These were not credulous men, easily deceived. We hear in the Gospel that when they saw the risen Jesus "they worshiped," yes, "but they doubted".

Even after seeing the risen Jesus, it's not easy for them to believe. Why? Well, as we saw on Easter Sunday, the resurrection is not simply the truth about one man. No, the resurrection is the truth about everything.

This become particularly clear as we celebrate the Ascension. Jesus takes his place at the right hand of the Father - as King of the Universe and King of your life and mine. In our creed after professing our faith in Jesus' Ascension we say, "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."

For a lot of people this is the scary part. Many people turn from God because they fear judgment. No matter how much we might try to deny it, we do fear judgment. You can see it in the famous movie director, Woody Allen. Recently he published a kind of autobiography. With self-deprecating humor, he tries to explain and justify his life. At the end he says, "Not believing in a hereafter, I really can't see any practical difference if people remember me as a film director or as a pedophile or at all."

I can understand how a person might want there to be no hereafter, no judgment. The thought of judgment is scary.

We can see that in our politics. People use judgments and accusation as weapons. A Democrat might say, "Those Republicans are always accusing us of disregarding life. They're the ones who don't care about life." And a Republican could say, "Those Democrats accuse us of being racists. How many of them of have even talked with a Republican?" Now, you may not agree with my examples, but you do know what I mean. Political arguments quickly descend into accusations, even contempt.

On social media like Facebook and Twitter accusations and judgments abound. And, unfortunately, in our homes we can quickly jump from argument to accusation. I am sure all of us have seen a domestic dispute turn ugly. An argument may start small. Who left their socks on the floor? Pretty soon someone brings up something the other person did, maybe years ago. It can escalate into a "kitchen sink argument". You know what I mean. People start throwing in everything, even the kitchen sink! Family members accuse and judge each other. Worst of all is the guy who tries to bring peace by telling everyone how childish and stupid they all are acting. A new round of accusations begins.

In the Bible Satan is called "the accuser of the brothers". The Book of Revelation says that "he accuses them night and day". That's the bad news. But we also have some good news. In face of the accuser who wants to condemn us to hell, we have an attorney, an advocate. As we heard last Sunday, Jesus will send the Advocate - the Spirit of Truth. Truth means more than blurting everything out. Truth involves seeing the whole picture. You know, it's easy to see through some other person. What takes work is to actually see that other person. The Holy Spirit sees each one of us and he sees the whole truth. We cannot have a better Advocate.

The Holy Spirit not only defends. He also cleanses and purifies. He is a mighty river that heals our hearts - and our memories. That healing of memories can begin even now but that's a topic for next week when we celebrate Pentecost - the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

What we want to take home today is, first, that Jesus "presented himself alive by many proofs". His resurrection is the truth about everything. We see that more clearly as we celebrate the Ascension - Jesus taking his place at the right hand of the Father where he will come again to judge the living and the dead. Although we naturally fear judgment and accusations, Jesus sends the best defender - the Holy Spirit who heals our world, our hearts and our memories. Amen.


Spanish Version

Audio Homilies for Mercy Sunday:

From the Archives (Ascension Homilies):

2019 (Year C): The Eyes of Your Heart
2018 (Year B): Bridging the Gap
2017 (Year A): Life in Christ Week 7: Mission
2016 (Year C): Gift of Honor
2015 (Year B): Disciple Makers Week 7: Be Part of the Story
2014 (Year A): Journey to Hope Week 7
2013 (Year C): The Way He Opened
2012 (Year B): He Took Prisoners Captive
2011 (Year A): The Personal Center
2010 (Year C): Disappear vs. Leave
2009 (Year B): What Good-Bye Means
2008 (Year A): Ascension Quotes
2007 (Year C): Separation of Church and State
2006 (Year B): Whoever Believes and is Baptized
2005 (Year A): There the Action Lies
2004 (Year C): Forgiveness - In His Name
2003 (Year B): What Does "He Ascended" Mean?
2002 (Year A): Finding the Way Home (Ascension & Mother's Day)
2001 (Year C): Submission to Jesus
2000 (Year B): Beyond the Secular Paradigm
1999 (Year A): A Wake Up Call
1998 (Year C): Jesus' Rule Vs. Cafeteria Catholicism

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

Parish Picture Album


MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru