10 Nov – Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Such Sure Hope
However cruelly the world may treat us, we can always rejoice in the glorious future promised us by Christ, when we will be filled with the vision of God’s glory.
– The Sunday Missal
2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14
There were seven brothers who were arrested with their mother. The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges. One of them, acting as spokesman for the others, said, ‘What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.’
With his last breath the second brother exclaimed, ‘Inhuman fiend, you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again for ever.’
After him, they amused themselves with the third, who on being asked for his tongue promptly thrust it out and boldly held out his hands, with these honourable words, ‘It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again.’ The king and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.
When this one was dead they subjected the fourth to the same savage torture. When he neared his end he cried, ‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by him; whereas for you there can be no resurrection, no new life.’
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
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.
Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone. But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you. May the Lord turn your hearts towards the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.
Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached him and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’
They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God
Today’s readings dwell on the tricky topic of life after death. The living like to obsess about the afterlife. Will we still know our family? Will our loved ones recognize us? What will our bodies look like? Catering to the dead is big business. It’s an industry that supports crematoriums, mediums, fortune-tellers, undertakers. The Chinese even go so far as to celebrate a festival honoring the dead, where paper effigies resembling the comforts of this earthly life (paper IPhones, IPads, BMWs, bungalows) are burned and ‘sent to the afterlife’ to keep the dead in the way of life that they had been accustomed to whilst alive.
We’ve all got our notions of what happens after we die. I’ve been wondering about death a lot lately. I see people around me getting old and falling ill and I wonder, when my time comes, will I be ready to die? And when I die, what is my afterlife going to be like? Will I get to keep my memories? And will I be reunited with all the people who have gone before me, who I used to know but have since gone home to God?
The Jerusalem of Jesus’ time was a melting pot of religious beliefs. Pagan superstition, Jewish tradition and Christian values were muddied together. As Paul retorted later when writing about resurrection, “… bad theories corrupt good morals!” (1 Cor 15:33). The Sadducees were a religious group who did not believe in resurrection. Their question was posed to Jesus to trip him up and make their logic seem superior, a logic based on the laws and practices of that time. In the days of Jesus, a woman could be traded away like a commodity (Genesis 19:8, Ruth 4:10), sold by her parents to strange men (Genesis 24) or offered as a reward (Judges 1:12, 1 Sam 17:25). Most marriages were either arranged or forced, with women having little say in their fates. Instead of taking the bait, Jesus turned the tables on the Sadducees and offered up God’s view of the afterlife – “They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God… 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” (Luke 20: 37-38). Jesus doesn’t use the past tense when describing God, he uses the word ‘is’, and impresses upon the Sadducees, ‘he is not God of the dead, but of the living’, a God of resurrected men.
Whatever were our circumstances, whether we have peaceful or violent ends, Jesus promises we will not be reborn into the life that we had known before. In resurrection, the Holy Spirit sanctifies and transforms us so this earthen clay falls away, and we are reborn anew. “The body is sown in decomposition, it will be raised never more to die. It is sown in humiliation, and it will be raised for Glory. It is buried in weakness but the resurrection shall be with power. When buried it is a natural body but it will be raised as a spiritual body” (1 Cor 15: 42-45).
Dying is difficult to contemplate if all we do is look back at what we’re leaving behind, and apply the worldly understanding that we have of things. Just as the grain dies, and falls to the earth to yield fruit multiple times over, we have a future to look ahead to, a future with our risen Christ, that goes beyond our human comprehension. Like the grain that knows not what it can be unless it dies, we will not be able to understand the state of our heavenly being until our moment arrives. So instead of looking back, let’s fix our gaze and our hearts ahead of us. We have our heavenly bodies to look forward to! Lord, when your glory appears, so will my joy be full!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for those who are suffering from terminal illnesses, for those who are contemplating the next stage of their lives. Fix your gaze firmly on the Lord and the moment when mortal being puts on immortality. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full!
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who are caregivers, who are watching their loved ones take the next step forward to another life. We pray God gives them strength and the grace to bear the short parting that is death. We pray God puts hope in their hearts, that one day, they will be reunited again, as immortal beings in eternity.