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
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.