II Mc 7: 1-2, 9-14; II Thes 2: 16–3:5; Lk 20: 27-38
A woman married four times. First, a millionaire. He died. Then an actor; and he died. Then a stylist; and he died. Finally she married a funeral director. When asked why, she said, “One for the money. Two for the show. Three to get ready. And four to go.”
A man left his home in Chicago one cold November day to go to Cancun on vacation. His wife was supposed to meet him there a day later. When he got there he sent an email to his wife – only he mis-typed the email address. His email went to a recent widow who had just buried her husband. When she opened her emails she gasped and fainted. Her daughter, who happened to be home at the time, heard her fall and went to see what happened. She found this note on the computer screen, “My dearest, I just checked in. I can hardly wait to see you when you get here tomorrow. Your loving husband. P.S. It sure is hot down here.”
Dear friends! As we near the end of the Church’s liturgical year, the readings become more eschatological — having to do with the endtimes. The main theme of today’s readings is the reality of life after death and of the relationship between our lives on earth and the life of glory or punishment that will follow. The readings invite us to consider the true meaning of the Resurrection in our lives.
The first reading describes a Jewish family, consisting of a mother and her seven sons, who refused a Syrian command to eat pork, forbidden as “unclean” by Jewish Law. Because of their Faith in, and obedience to, God, they endure suffering and accept martyrdom. During their torture, three of the brothers speak, and each of them finds strength in the belief that he will eventually be raised and rewarded by God. The second reading encourages the Thessalonians who were waiting for the Parousia or the second coming of Christ, to trust in the fidelity of God who would strengthen their hearts in every good work and word.
The same theme of the resurrection of the dead is the basis of the confrontation described in today’s Gospel passage. The Sadducees were an extreme conservative group among the Jews. They did not believe in the resurrection. Since they didn’t believe in the resurrection, they presented Jesus with a problem they thought would prove there could be no resurrection.
They had a rule about a man marring his brother’s widow and producing children in his brother’s name if the brother had died without children. This preserved the name and memory of the brother, it kept in the family whatever property the brother had, and it ensured that the widow would be provided for. Jesus answered the Sadducees by telling them they misunderstood marriage and they misunderstood the resurrection. Jesus is saying human language cannot describe the nature of the risen body when he says those who have risen will be like angels. In other words, resurrection will be nothing like the life we live now.
Writers have tried to explain it and it seems to be best explained by what it is not: no pain, no suffering, no boredom, no death, no need for the things we now need to survive (food and rest) and no need to enter into marriage in order to keep our species from dying out. The bible is absolutely clear on the fact of life after death. But the bible is less clear on what life after death is like. It talks about it only in general terms. We see that, for example, in today’s gospel reading. Jesus affirms the existence of an afterlife, but he does not say what it is like.
St. Paul said of this state: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him,’ this God has revealed to us through the Spirit”(I Cor 2:9-10).
At this time of the year, as nature begins to shut down for a few months, the Church is reminding us of the temporary nature of all things and of our own mortality. But is today’s gospel it also reminds us of the hope we have, that God is not only the God of the living, but also the God who continues to create. Through his Son he is creating a new world, he is calling us to new life.
This new life is not something we can expect to get automatically, which our present day culture tries to lead us to believe It is a kingdom we are all invited into, but whether we enter depends on our free choice as to whether we follow the Christ has shown us.