October 31, 2016 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Is that all there is? Or RESURRECTION.
Introduction: The first Reading and the Gospel have several things in common this Sunday. They both speak of seven brothers. In the first reading there are seven Hebrew brothers and their mother. In the Gospel the Sadducees bring up a case of Jewish law in which seven brothers in a row marry the same wife. But the main issue in both the First Reading and the Gospel is the question of RESURRECTION.
Homily: Our First reading today was some verses from the 2nd Book of Maccabees chapter 7. The entire chapter is the powerful story of seven brothers and their mother who refuse to eat pork according to their dietary laws. Each in turn suffers martyrdom. The details of their suffering are gruesome. But the main point of the narrative is the belief in the resurrection. Early Jewish belief was that justice would be accomplished in this life. Wrongs would be righted in this life. Belief in the Resurrection is a later development in Jewish doctrine.
At the time of Jesus not all Jews believed in the doctrine of the Resurrection. In chapter 20 of St. Luke’s Gospel Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem. Luke gives us a number of different things that happen on one day when Jesus is teaching and preaching in the temple. We are told that the priests and scribes first try to trap Jesus directly. When this fails they send others to try to trap him indirectly. It is in this context that today’s reading is set. Now the Sadducees attempt to set a theological trap for Jesus. The Sadducees are introduced at this point because of their position “that there is no resurrection.”
The Sadducees are really in a way mocking Jesus by the case they present. For them the situation showed the ridiculousness of the very notion of resurrection.
Jesus’ response distinguishes two ages. In the first Jesus rejects the idea of the Sadducees who imagine the life of those raised from the dead is a continuation of this life as we know it. In the second it is a mistake to speak of life resurrected by God in terms of our earthly experience. Paul told the Corinthians “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” But the main point that Jesus makes is the reality of the resurrection. Does not Moses refer to the Lord as the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? God, however, is the God of the living and not the God of the dead. Since Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had long ago died, they must consequently have risen to life, if Moses can refer to God in this way. Since the patriarchs live to God, they must consequently have been raised, and resurrection is a biblically attested reality.
Some years back a popular song asked the question: IS THAT ALL THERE IS? It seemed to raise the very profound question, is this life all that there is. To this question the words of the Hebrew brothers bring definite answers. The second brother says to the King: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will rise us up to live again forever.” The third brother states clearly that though the King may dismember them God will restore their limbs. The fourth brother said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.” All seven brothers died, giving witness. Last of all the mother died. Read the entire story in chapter seven of Second Maccabees.
The death of one of our loved ones bring us to reflect on the ultimate questions of life and death. As we approach the end of our Church year, the readings focus our attention on the last things in different ways. Questions of death, judgement, heaven and hell are to be considered. The readings this Sunday offer us the opportunity to reflect on these ultimate questions free from the emotional strain that comes from grieving a loved one and then proceeding to bury them. The Month of November has traditionally been the Month of the Poor Souls. We remember our beloved dead. But for each of us we must face the question, “What do I believe about life and death?” “What does my belief in the Resurrection consist in?” “What do I believe about an after life?” “Am I ready to die?”