Nov. 9, 2019

THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2019

Readings: 1st- 2 Macc. 7:1-2, 9-14; 2nd- 2 Thess. 2:16-3:5; Gospel- Lk. 20:27-38

TO GOD ALL ARE ALIVE

It’s all about the reality of the resurrection in the readings of today. We see how the seven sons in the book of Maccabees experience torture. They help us understand the futility of the human body. The sons and their mother are persecuted for refusing to eat pork in violation of God’s law, a pre-Christian Jewish belief that emphasizes the dignity of dying for one’s faith. The reading points strongly to the importance of the afterlife. Those who are executed do not hesitate to give up their bodies despite physical pains. They believe that God will reward them eternally for remaining faithful to the end. The last son in the reading exclaims, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised by him; but for you, there will be no Resurrection to life” (2 Macc. 7:14).

This sets the stage for the gospel. The Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection or in angels question Christ. They use a tricky image to communicate their denial of the resurrection. As usual, Moses is their Old Testament authority. They cite the Torah that someone’s brother must take his wife to raise descendants for the brother if he died without having any offspring. They present the case of seven brothers who had all married the same woman without any of them having a child with her. So, they ask Christ, “At the resurrection whose wife will she be having been married to all seven?” Christ’s response is astonishing. It's not just about marriage or about begetting children, it’s about being truly alive, being fruitful for the sake of God's kingdom.

The children of this age marry for the sake of having children. They love to enjoy earthly benefits. The children of the Kingdom marry to make heaven. Such persons are not focused on their bodies. They concentrate on what makes them live forever in heaven. Since the Sadducees used the Torah (Moses’ writing) to counter the Resurrection, Jesus refers them to the same authority of the Scripture to prove the reality of the resurrection. At the burning bush, Moses referred to God as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  Even though those ancestors might have been physically dead, they are alive in God.  They are alive in the faith. To God all are alive.

Who are the dead? They are those who lived as though everything ended here on earth. Those who were lost in wealth, power, and earthly possession. Recall the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Lk. 16:19-31). While the rich man died and was buried, Lazarus died and was taken to Abraham’s side (Lk. 16:22). The rich man sighted Abraham from a distance and called out to him for help. The rich man was in Hades, a place of torment. He was truly dead. The rich man realized that in heaven, the dead are not dead. They live with God. Only from heaven can the dead communicate. They are able to offer help because they are like angels- messengers of God. For that reason, the rich man called out to Abraham, "Send Lazarus to my family" (Lk. 16:27). Again, he begged, “If someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent” (Lk. 16:29). He cannot do it from where he is. He is dead forever, hence he asks for help from those who are truly living. To God all are alive.

The resurrection of Christ is at the center of our Christian belief. Saint Paul makes a strong case when he writes to the Corinthians, “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (15:12-14). This is what the Sadducees try to do questioning Christ. Saint Paul’s answer is that, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20). Through Christ, the resurrection becomes an essential part of our Christian faith.

Those who suffer persecution or torture for the sake of Christ will rise from the dead. Those who give up material or physical satisfaction will rise from the dead. Jesus reminds Peter, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29). So, the real-life is the life that is productive for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.

We profess in the Creed, “the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.” Without the resurrection, our hope would be meaningless. Christians who are persecuted here on earth, like those sons in the first reading, will rise with Christ.  Their reward will be great in heaven (Matt. 5:10).

I was told of the story of some children who lost their mom. The woman died in an attempt to save one of the children who was attacked by bees. While the children were playing in the filed right in front of the house, they were attacked by bees. This woman heard the little baby crying and rushed out. As she picked up the child, the swarm of bees attacked her. On the way to the hospital she died. But the baby survived. That’s like a martyr. She died saving her child. She will rise with Christ.

We are children of the Resurrection. In God, we all have become alive. We live for the world beyond where we shall see God as He really is. That’s what the Resurrection does: 1). it transforms our physical bodies. 2). It makes us assume the likeness of the angels. 3). It gives us the privilege of seeing God as he is. 4). It brings us to the abiding identity of living in eternity where we die no more. We conquer death forever because to God all are alive.