The Word for the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
Luke 20:27-38 or Luke 20:27, 34-38
This week our readings focus on the afterlife. We start with a story from 2 Maccabees, a book written about 100-150 years before Christ, which tells the story of a family being tortured and killed by their Greek Seleucid overlords. The reading shows their valiant desire to keep God’s law, which is in itself, noble, But that’s not the point of the story. Yes, being willing to die for one’s faith is a powerful story of courage amid adversity, but what is it that helps them to find that strength? According to the text, it is the promise of resurrection… that there is a better life awaiting us after this one.
To understand the power of that message it also helps to understand that the concept of Heaven and a resurrection were relatively new to the Hebrew people at the time this was being written, and still not fully accepted during Jesus’ time. In fact, the books of 1 and 2 Maccabees mark a dramatic turning point in the geo/political reality of the Jewish people. The Greek Empire is in its final death-throws… with Seleucid faction pushing in from the east (and north) against a faltering Ptolemaic faction, while also facing the rising power of the Roman Republic on the Mediterranean. Once again, the Jewish people are caught in the middle of epic events, and setting the stage for the world we eventually see in the time of Jesus.
Which takes us to this week’s Gospel. For the past few months we’ve been traveling with Jesus through Luke’s Gospel as he makes his long journey to Jerusalem (and his eventual crucifixion). In our story this week, Jesus has finally reached the city of Jerusalem where the various factions have lined up against him and have been actively engaging him in an effort to find fault in his teaching. In this week’s gospel it’s the Sadducees who confront Jesus wherein they try to debate him into a corner on his teachings of the afterlife (a premise not accepted by them, in contrast to the Pharisees). Although it seems like Jesus is ducking the question, he is in fact confirming two solid beliefs… First, that God is a god of the living, not the dead, and therefore we must have life after death. Second, that life after death is so radically different that the rules that bind us on earth simply don’t apply.
To round out our readings we continuing our journey through Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians. Here Paul acknowledges that the parousia so anxiously awaited for has been delayed, and as such we need to continue to persevere in our Christian life. The community has been struggling due to some false teachings they received about the “end times,” which Paul is trying to correct.
Teachings like these have lead to our Catholic understanding of the immutable nature of the soul… that we were created, and that we are unique, and that how we chose to live our lives will ultimately determine our fate after death… Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory.
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