As we enter the month of November, a month when we traditionally reflect on death and those who have died, our first reading and gospel focus our attention on death and resurrection.
In the First Reading, seven brothers and their mother are brought before the pagan king who was trying to impose the Greek way of life on all those under his rule. The king had decreed that the Jews had to abandon their religious traditions by eating pork in violation of God’s law. If they did they would live, if they refused they would die.
Seven brothers are brought before the king and rather than obeying him, they each decide to obey God. So, in sight of their mother, the seven brothers are tortured and killed one by one. After witnessing the execution of her beloved sons, she herself is put to death. Those seven brothers died with the hope that God would reward their faithfulness to him by raising them to new life. As one of the brothers told the king, “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”
In the Gospel, the Sadducees, challenge Jesus by posing a hypothetical situation that involves seven brothers. The Sadducees create the situation to show the absurdity of believing that life continues after death. Messy situations in this life would become even worse in a next life.
Of all the lessons, this portion of the Luke’s Gospel that we read today offers us a clear message about God’s plan for our future. On this occasion, several Sadducees questioned Jesus regarding levirate marriage, the practice of widows marrying their husband’s brother to carry on the family name and its results on the Last Day at the General Resurrection. Those who questioned Jesus did not believe in the hope that he offered to his disciples. It was an attempt to entrap him and discredit his teaching, but Jesus was not deterred. He explained that God’s promise for the age to come is a promise of transformation.
Rejecting the resurrection, as the Sadducees did, was to misunderstand something essential about who God is. God is the living God, and those who trust in him will become “like angels,” not concerned with the worries of the present, and they shall “children of God” and “children of the resurrection.”
God’s purpose is to make us like the Risen Christ, to make us like Jesus by means of our own resurrection to eternal life. Jesus grounded this hope, not in the problems of the present, but in the living God himself. Jesus reminds us that the Holy One, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the living who can give life even to those to who have died.
What people believe about eternal life is not just something that affects how they view what follows death; it affects how they live today. It determines whether like the seven brothers of our First Reading, they live with hope and trust in God’s eternal care for them or like the Sadducees of our Gospel, they restrict their vision only to this world because their idea of God´s greatness was too small
Jesus himself faced the cross with the absolute hope that God the Father does not abandon his children to the oblivion of nothingness when they die. As Jesus says, God “is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
The tremendous greatness of God and this promise of resurrection and future transformation form an essential part of our Christian faith. Day-in and day-out the Church proclaims that we believe in “God, the Father Almighty,” “the resurrection of the body,” and “everlasting life”.
We believe that despite our problems and burdens, God will convert our frequently inglorious present into a life of eternal significance filled with joy, peace, and an incorruptible glory—we will become like our risen Saviour Jesus Christ. Such a transformation will not be the product of our human devising; nor will it be a reward for our own good works. Rather, it will be fruit of God’s love and grace at work in our lives to bring about God’s good purposes for us through the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray for balance in work and play and balance in quiet prayer and good actions. Let us pray for a healthy mix of concern for doing God’s will and the assurance that we are loved anyway.