Read 2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14, Ps. 17:1,5-6,8,15, 2 Thess. 2:16-3:5, Luke 20:27-38
“You dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws… I got these (hands) from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again… One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.” (2 Maccabees 7:9,11&14)
Last Sunday, in the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, we learned that God does not hate what He has made and that He is a merciful Father who takes no delight in the death of the sinner but in repentance. Like a loving shepherd who goes everywhere looking for his lost sheep, Jesus is not ashamed to associate with those considered to be sinners declaring that His mission is simply “to save lost.” (Luke 19:10)
While we celebrated the courage of Zacchaeus who stood up publicly to renounce his past life, our first reading today presents the example of seven sons who publicly defended their faith with their very lives because of their firm hope and belief in the resurrection of the body. From these brothers, we only begin to live when we are ready to die for our convictions.
Meanwhile, in today’s Gospel passage, the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection of the body asked Jesus a question that seemed to counter its possibility. Jesus does not dismiss their question but answers them clearly. The God we worship is God of the living, not of the dead; meaning that everyone who has ever lived is alive in God. And in that life to come, there would be no need for marriage.
No doubt, our liturgy today contains a lot of lessons for us:
*1. Rejoice and be glad; Your Reward is Great in Heaven.
The biggest challenge facing the Christian faith today is that a lot of us have become too afraid to stand up for our values. We tend to align with the standards of the world for fear of losing material favors or our very lives. The seven sons in today’s first reading did not have the privilege of encountering Jesus, yet they lived out the words of Jesus in the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12)
Just before he died, one of the seven brothers declared: “One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.” Jesus taught us: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it… For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:35 & 38). Whether we like it or not, life on earth is only a test, a preparation for eternity.
*2. God will Raise Up Our Mortal Bodies to Life Again.
Many of us recite the creed but hardly take time to reflect on what we profess: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY, and the life everlasting. Amen.” We believe not just in the fact that when we die, our souls continue to live, but also in the fact that God will again raise to life our very bodies; this very flesh that decays after burial will come to life again. (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church No. 990).
This is exactly what one of the seven sons professed when he opened his tongue and stretched forth his hands before his killers saying: “I got these from Heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him, I hope to get them back again.” (2 Maccabees 7:11). When we say the dead shall rise again, we literally mean that our mortal bodies will receive life again. As St. Paul teaches: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also.” (Romans 8:11)
*3. Yes, We Shall Take Up Flesh Again But…
Like the Sadducees who had to come to Jesus with the story of a woman who married seven brothers, many Christians today find it very difficult to comprehend the idea of the resurrection of the body. Is it the case that this very flesh will be given to us again? Yes. Does it mean that at the resurrection, we would be able to recognize each other’s faces? Yes. So, our hands, our eyes, our tongue, etc. would be restored to us again? Yes. Does it then mean we shall be capable of falling in love, getting married, and so on? Jesus says: “Those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God.” (Luke 20:35-36).
At the resurrection of the body, our life shall be so glorious that there would be no need for sexual relations or procreation. We shall only do one thing in heaven: praise and worship God. St. John gives a perfect description of life at the resurrection when he said: “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night within his temple, and he who sits upon the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17)
Do you recall the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman? Jesus told her of the sprints of living water from which you drink and never thirst again. In the resurrection of the body, God will so satisfy our bodily cravings that there would be thirst, no hunger, no sexual desire, no heat or sweat, nothing that makes life appear unbearable as we have it right now. We would not have bad leaders who take decisions that affect the common man while they themselves are shielded from the consequences. Just consider the plight of our federal university lecturers for instance, who have not been paid salaries for eight months and are now given half their salary for the new month. It is just a pity. Our leaders need prayers.
*4. Pray for Your Civil and Spiritual Leaders.
One great saint said: “Behind every priest is a devil working very hard for his downfall.” Our final lesson today comes from our second reading. We hear St. Paul saying: “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed on and triumph, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men; for not all have faith.” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). No leader is a superman. It takes the grace of God to lead your fellow human beings. If we desire great leaders, let us pray for them always and not heap curses on them constantly.Above all, let us all cherish the hope of rising again to life.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, make me wise enough to fear sin more than death. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14, Ps. 17:1,5-6,8,15, 2 Thess. 2:16-3:5, Luke 20:27-38)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu