First Reading: 2Mc 7:1-2.9-:14; Psalm: 17. R. v. 15b; Second Reading: 2Thes 2:16-3:5; Gospel: Lk 20:27-38
THE LIFE OF THE RESURRECTION
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
As we gradually draw close to the end of the Church’s liturgical year, we can notice how our readings suddenly take the eschatological dimension. This abrupt shift to the topic of death, resurrection, judgement, and final destination of souls is a customary approach adopted by the Church to remind us of the reality of the end to earthly life and the transition to a new kind of life that never ends. However, the belief in the resurrection is not a generally accepted belief.
The regard to the resurrection as illusory or a ruse intended to trick people into believing what really do not exist is an idea that has lived from time immemorial. This is proven by the ridiculous story fabricated by the Sadducees in the gospel of today regarding a widow who got married to all seven brothers. This story was not an attempt to clear any puzzle regarding who shall be the rightful husband to this widow at the resurrection of the dead. It was just a make up story to mock the belief in the resurrection. Because unlike the Pharisees, the Sadducees do not believe there is anything such as the resurrection. But this gave Jesus the opportunity to clear their doubt.
There is no passage in the scriptures that gives a very vivid description of the nature of the resurrection like the passage of today’s gospel. It becomes even convincing as it proceeded from the mouth of Jesus. Jesus explained in clear terms that the life of the resurrection is not a continuation of the earthly life. To marry or to be given in marriage is an earthly affair from where every existence of human life and other activities of the earth draw from. We do not continue this kind of life at the resurrection because we cannot die any more. This new nature of immortality indicates a complete change from the life before to the life after.
Jesus further explained that the resurrected are equal to angels and are sons of God. This might open up a new reality to our understanding of the nature of the resurrected. Before now, many of us might have believed that when we talk of the resurrection of the dead, we refer to the rising of their souls; something invisible without a body. We picture heaven as a place where the souls of the righteous without bodies exist. But Jesus seems to be saying something different today. The resurrected are equal to angels.
If angels are celestial beings with body and soul; then the resurrected are not different. The resurrected are raised with a new kind of body; a glorified body just like the angels. A kind of body that can be seen and felt. But also a kind of body not restricted to space and time. We can take the resurrected Jesus as an example. When Jesus rose from the dead, the apostles could see and touch him. But what made his new nature superior to that of his followers was that he was not restricted to space and time. Jesus could pass through closed doors. He could appear and disappear. Yet he had a body; a glorified body. This is a typical example of the nature of the resurrected.
Having explained to the Sadducees the nature of the resurrected, Jesus finally nailed his argument on the belief in the resurrection by quoting a killer text that left the Sadducees dumbfounded. During Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, God introduced himself thus, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Gen 3:6). Referring to this passage, Jesus argued that since our God is the God of the living and not of the dead, it therefore means that these patriarchs, who were already dead before the existence of Moses, did not go into extinction but are still alive somewhere. On hearing this, the Sadducees couldn’t argue any further because they strictly believed in the written Torah (the first five books of the Bible).
The readings of today should strengthen our belief in the resurrection of the faithful because if we do not believe in the resurrection then our faith and hope in God is useless. The Christian life is constantly propelled and sustained by our belief in the life to come. Our choices and actions are guided by this belief. No reasonable person travels aimlessly in life. If we have a destination, it then presupposes a way. To every Christian, our final destination is heaven. A place we cannot reach unless we follow Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6). And the means to this transition from earth to heaven is through death and resurrection.
We should reflect today whether we are still on track to our final destination or have veered off the way. This is why the eschatological feature of the readings to mark the end of the Church’s liturgical year is relevant. The first reading of today therefore offers spiritual booster to us lagging behind in our faith and course to heaven. It narrates the torture of seven brothers and their mother by a brutal king; King Antiochus IV of Syria. These brothers and their mother persevered and never compromised their faith even under torture; a persistent faith sustained by their belief in the resurrection of the faithful.
At the point of death, one of the brothers said to their torturer, “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.” Obviously, this kind of faith was based on the conviction of a glorious life that awaited the just and the faithful. For if he had no hope of the resurrection, it would be senseless to suffer thus.
Just like these seven brothers and their mother, let our faith and belief in the life to come motivate and influence our decisions and actions in life. When our life or job is under threat because of our belief in truth and justice; how many of us can stand? When we are guaranteed some positive incentives like money, support, positions of leadership and other beneficial rewards if only we compromise our faith; how many of us can hold out? In the face of lies, oppression and injustice, can we speak up especially for the vulnerable and defenceless?
We can all re-examine ourselves today to know exactly the things that compels us to compromise our faith. These are the things we must confront and overcome because they stand on our way towards the reward of the life to come. Every day at Mass we profess, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” If truly we believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting; then it will be foolish of us if we do not partake in it.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, we believe in the resurrection of the faithful. Help us by your grace to work towards this unending life and to overcome any force contrary to it. Amen.