Pastoral Sharings: “Seven Brothers”

WeeklyMessage   Father Alex McAllister SD
   November 10, 2013
   Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

   When looking at the Sunday scripture readings it is    
  always worth bearing in mind that they are not chosen at
  random. The readings are carefully selected and nearly
  always there is a direct connection between the First
   Reading and the Gospel.

Today we have in the First Reading from the Book of Maccabees the story of a mother and her seven sons who are persecuted by the wicked King Antiochus. Each of the sons is eventually killed after being viciously tortured, but they all go courageously to their deaths expressing their deep faith in the resurrection.

In the Gospel we also have seven brothers and the debate is also about the resurrection. These hypothetical brothers are presented to Jesus by the Sadducees, who tell him that each of the brothers dies in turn, handing on the wife to the next brother according to Levirate Law of Marriage as set out in the Book of Deuteronomy. The Sadducees want to know from Jesus just whose wife she will be in the afterlife.

Of course, theirs is a trick question. They want to catch Jesus out; they want to prove that he is a charlatan and that their beliefs are the only true ones.

You need to understand that the Sadducees only followed the Pentateuch; that is the first five books of the Bible which are the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Not only this, but they took the Word of God as expressed in these Books in a very literal and dogmatic way. They were completely against innovation in religion and opposed anything new.

These Sadducees are easily distinguished from the other main group of Jesus’ opponents, the Pharisees, because unlike them the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection or in Angels or indeed anything else that came into Judaism after the Pentateuch was written.

The question they ask Jesus is interesting because the only reason for this instruction in Deuteronomy that the wife should be taken on by the surviving brother was so that the family name would be handed on. If you have no belief in resurrection then the only afterlife one can expect is this handing on of the family name.

We might think that handing on a name is a very poor substitute indeed for eternal life but we need to realise that the concept of resurrection did not enter into anyone’s thinking until two centuries before the time of Jesus and it was certainly not something that was universally accepted in Israel.

It is Jesus who by his own resurrection opens up the way for all mankind to rise from the dead and who enables us to live with the Father for all eternity.

Jesus corrects the Sadducees by pointing out to them that the resurrection does not mean a continuation of this present life but involves a rising to a completely new plane of existence in which enjoying life with God is the keynote.

There is also an allusion in Jesus words in the Gospel to all those who have forsaken marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. This, of course, includes monks, nuns and priests down through the ages; but also it includes the many lay people who have forsaken marriage so that they can more effectively proclaim the Gospel by their way of life.

We should also be careful with this text because although it stresses that there is no marrying in the Kingdom of Heaven it does not mean that those who are married in this life are separated when they die. Often at a funeral we hear the priest telling us that the deceased is now reunited with their marriage partner in heaven.

This is indeed so, but we should not think of it as a resumption of our earthly existence and our former relationships as they were before. We cannot know what life in heaven will be like; all we do know is that it will be totally different from this present life. We can surmise, however, that since God is love then all the loving relationships that we have on this earth will be raised to a completely new level. This gives us a wonderful message of hope and trust in God who cares for us in the deepest manner possible.

Today we commemorate Remembrance Sunday, the day on which we call to mind all those who have died in war especially those who died in the First and Second World Wars as well as those who have perished in more recent conflicts.

We express our thanks for the sacrifice of their lives so that we might live in freedom. But we do this not in a spirit of the glorification of war but in a grim realisation of the horror and destruction that any war brings. We realise that war is dreadful and we never underestimate the devastation and the terrible human cost involved.

Our own country is not free from guilt in these matters; we are all too often ready to intervene here and there in the world out of political expediency. Our country is deeply involved in the arms trade across the globe and we seem to be content to make profit from other people’s misfortune.

This is an area of extremely difficult moral choices and we ought to be very careful before we express our opinion as to whether this or that intervention is justified or not. Indeed we have only to reflect on the lies that have come to light in recent years which were told to us by politicians and others in order to persuade the country to go to war. The recent war in Iraq is only one example of this.

Despite all these things, our hearts go out to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in war. We think of the soldiers and the many civilians whose lives have been lost in conflicts across the globe. Our heart goes out to their families who have to carry on their lives despite the loss of their loved ones.

We honour those who have died and we respect the sacrifice that they have made; and in particular we keep them in mind in ceremonies this morning across the country where people of every kind come together to remember the sacrifices made on our behalf.

It is most fitting to do these things on this day as we think about the resurrection and what it means to us. The resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith, it is the rock on which our belief in God is built, it is the greatest hope for mankind that there ever could be.|

Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
November 10, 2013

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 20:27-38
Gospel Summary

Some Sadducees, denying belief in resurrection, pose a hypothetical question to Jesus about seven brothers who, after each other’s death, marry the same woman. The Sadducees ask whose wife that woman will be at the resurrection. Jesus replies that those who are deemed worthy to attain to the resurrection of the dead are not married to anyone. They can no longer die, and they themselves are all children of God. Then Jesus points out that the Sadducees should know this from the passage in Exodus where God appears to Moses in the burning bush. The Lord said to Moses, “I am the God…of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” It is evident, Jesus says, that the Lord is “not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Heaven, Marriage and the Resurrection
Will there be marriage in heaven?  Jesus’ answer to the Saducees about the widow with seven deceased husbands needs to be understood in light of some important truths about the resurrection and the hereafter.

Given their history, it seems rather strange.  After all, for hundreds of years the Jews lived alongside a race that was totally preoccupied with life after death.  The Egyptians built pyramids that were wonders of the ancient world.  But their sole purpose was to launch their leaders into the next world.

32nd Sunday: Heaven
A woman had seven husbands, who all died.  Whose wife will she be when she dies?  I don’t know, but I do know that when she dies she’ll have some splaining to do about her cooking.  I figure she must have served them corned beef. Certainly, it couldn’t have been spaghetti, God created that. OK, but that wasn’t how Jesus answered the question. 

Sometimes you come to Church and the priests give you hell.  Today’s readings encourage the priest to give you heaven.

Once Upon a Day of Prayer | Rediscovering St. Thérèse
Every month each Carmelite Sister steps aside from her daily service to God’s people and makes a one-day spiritual retreat. To most of us, this single day out of each month is dearly loved and longed for. We meet and work with a lot of people on a daily basis, and to enjoy a day of silence and prayer is not so much a luxury as a necessity.

What Faith Is and What it Isn’t
The Protestant theologian Paul Tillich once commented that “faith” is the most misunderstood word in the religious vocabulary. I’m increasingly convinced that he was right about this. The ground for my conviction is the absolutely steady reiteration on my Internet forums of gross caricatures of what serious believers mean by faith.

God’s weak spot is his love for those who are lost, pope says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — God has a certain weak spot of love for those who are lost or have strayed furthest from him; they are the ones he goes out to find, Pope Francis said.

It’s because God is a sore loser, he added, saying God doesn’t like losing his children.

The Mother of all Saints
They tell me she looks just like me.  I smile and nod and smile some more.  To be honest, I don’t consider it much of a compliment for her.

But then, when I sent some pictures to a grandmother who hadn’t seen her in far too long, I heard that she thinks my daughter looks, not like me, but like my husband.  You might expect me to be disappointed, but I think it’s great.

“Satan, Haunter of the World, is Haunted by Holiness”
I don’t go to Halloween parties. I drive a cab in New York City all night and I witness a freak show every night of the year. Not everyone mind you, just the ones dressed in their fantasy costumes of a rock star or a Goth or a princess or a cowgirl or a barbarian or an artist or a hippie or a harlot or a witch or a Neanderthal or a space alien or a mental escapee. None seem to be afraid of hell and most don’t believe in the devil, although a few worship him.

Scripture Speaks: Life After Death
Gospel (Read Lk 20:27-38)

St. Luke describes for us an encounter Jesus had with a group of Sadducees, and we need to understand who they were in order to best appreciate it.  The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (pg 89) says:

Pope: Saints Are ‘Friends of God’ Because They Loved ‘With All Their Heart’
VATICAN CITY — On the Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis stressed that the saints are not “supermen” who are “born perfect,” but, rather, are ordinary people who followed God “with all their heart.”

“They are like us; they are like each of us: They are people who, before reaching the glory of heaven, lived a normal life, with joys and griefs, struggles and hopes,” the Pope said before the noontime Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 1.

Ten Saints Every “Worrier” Should Know
Although we’d rather not admit it, many of us worry (or are tempted to worry) each day of our lives. One of the reasons that we worry is that we sometimes feel we are facing our problems alone. Once we meet others who are dealing with similar problems, we usually feel better. Even more comforting is when we encounter someone who has survived the issue that is troubling us. As Catholics, much can be gained by studying the lives of the saints. Far from living easy lives, these men and women have struggled with many of the same anxiety producing problems experienced by you and I. Furthermore, we know that they’ve ended up we all want to go – Heaven! Are you anxious or worried? Do you have serious problems in your life? Here are 10 saints that you should get to know. We can learn a lot from their lives.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ, In Scripture and in his own words.
I have mentioned before that many years ago in seminary I was quite surprised to listen to some of my professors declare what I considered to be heretical things about Jesus Christ. They often said, he did not claim to be God, or he did not know he was God.

When I might meekly suggest a certain biblical text that more than suggested he darn well knew he was divine they seemed unimpressed and invoked dubious theories that denied the biblical text was a credible source.

Grow in Christ, Marriage, & Prayer
Some relationships simply do not grow.  They are static, limited, predictable – they involve persons “kept at a distance” – they are the less important relationships in our lives.  Relationships  that really matter, the meaningful, important ones, must be growing and developing.  They must have life.  Meaningful relationships have life – vitality, ever new, ever fruitful, always more somehow than the mere sum of their parts.  The relationships I want to consider here are the relationship of spouses in Christian marriage, and the relationship of a Christian with God which is known as the Christian’s life of prayer.  The two relationships ought to be ever growing, ever deepening in intimacy, ever full with life and ever fruitful.

Saving Your Soul
You ask me to give you some advice about saving your soul: a demand most reasonable and worthy to be granted if only my ability were equal to my good will.

When a man first has the use of his reason, he should begin so to regulate his life that when death comes, his days may all have been spent in preparation for worthily receiving the crown of glory. When maturer age, the forerunner of death, arrives, he must repent and make amends for any past negligence. This is the time to renew our courage and to exert ourselves to remedy the weaknesses of our youth and to devote ourselves with fervor to making ready for death.

The Family that Prays the Rosary Together
“It seems to me that a principal cause of the loss of faith is the dropping off in the practice of the family rosary … the abandonment of the family rosary is a main reason why so many Catholics have lost the faith…. the Church of the future is going to consist solely of those families who have been faithful to the rosary. But there will be vast numbers of people whose families used to be Catholic.” (taken from the booklet, “Our Glorious Faith and How to Lose It” by Fr. Hugh Thwaites, S.J.)

A Word of Encouragement in one of Jesus’ Stranger Sayings
It’s one of the stranger dialogs that occurs in the Gospel. We read it last week in daily Mass and it is difficult not to rejoice in the aplomb of Jesus has he says it.

Some Pharisees, likely disingenuous in their motives, approach Jesus  to warn him that he needs to leave immediately: Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you. Jesus, more likely speaking to them, rather than Herod, says the following:

Myths, Lies, or Truth: Can We Really Trust the Gospels?
January 11, 49 B.C. is one of the most famous dates in the history of ancient Rome, even of the ancient world. On that date Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River, committing himself and his followers to civil war. Few, if any, historians doubt that the event happened. On the other hand, numerous skeptics claim that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are myth and have no basis in historical fact. Yet, as historian Paul Merkley pointed out two decades ago in his article, “The Gospels as Historical Testimony,” far less historical evidence exists for the crossing of the Rubicon than does for the events depicted in the Gospels:

Five Ways to Improve Your Prayer Life
How much time and energy is exerted in obtaining a degree from some prestigious University?  How much blood, sweat and tears are expended to win a trophy from some sporting event? How much time and energy can even be consumed in preparing for a surprise Birthday party?   If we can expend so much time, money, emotional and physical energy for such natural pursuits, should we not at least expend more of our time and energy in what is the greatest of all arts, “The art of all arts” and that is learning the Practice of Prayer?

The Biblical Roots of the Sign of the Cross
Few actions so clearly distinguish a person as a Catholic in our culture as the Sign of the Cross.

Contrary to what some Protestants would have you think, the Sign of the Cross dates back to the earliest times. In third century, Tertullian wrote, “At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign.” A number of other Church Fathers also attest to the use of the Sign of the Cross early on, including St. John Chrysostom and St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

“You ask too little [of God]”
“You don’t ask too much from God, you ask too little,” the silver-haired, Dr. Margarett Schlientz scolded her audience during a talk last month at the Thirst Conference in Bismarck, ND.  She spoke with confidence, infusing her audience with the certainty of the Gospels and the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Schlientz has the authority of one with three masters degrees; in theology, spirituality, and psychiatric nursing, as well as a doctorate in psychiatric nursing, and many years as an administrator and teacher at Marquette University.  But it is her no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase style that gets an audience’s attention.

The Challenge of Forgiving Oneself
As the Year of Faith draws to a close Nov. 24, Ignatius Press has provided us with a collection of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012-2013 Wednesday general audience talks on the subject of faith.

The Holy Father dedicated his final weekly audiences to exploring the personal meaning of faith, and, although the Year of Faith may soon be over, his reflections retain a lasting value.

Benedict made clear that faith is, first and foremost, something personal, not just something propositional. Faith is about Someone, not just something:

Made for Holiness
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI initiated the Year of Faith October 11, 2012 which terminates on Nov.24, 2013 on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ the King. In doing so, His Holiness encouraged us to get to know Jesus as Friend, but also to make Him known throughout the whole world.

Imagining the Death Bed
“I’m sorry, but it’s terminal,” your doctor says. “You have very little time left—a couple months at best.” What would you do? Take all of your money and go on a dream vacation? Buy the boat you always wanted? Party like there’s no tomorrow?

Of course not. You would likely plead for a miracle and then proceed to get your soul in order. With mortality on the horizon, worldly pleasures would become less pleasurable. They don’t last. They don’t matter.

Do Ghosts Exist?
Q.  Dear Dan, a friend of mine has ghosts in his “new” old home.  He knows someone who knows someone who can get rid of them and free BorisovMusatovPhantomsthe souls who are stuck in this world.  I told him I believe there are ghosts; but, I don’t understand exactly how our Catholic faith addresses the problem of God allowing souls to get stuck here.  Do ghosts exist?  What does the Church say about these things?

A.  Believe it or not, I have actually given this a lot of thought because of my own experience with these matters.

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