Tuesday, November 1, 2016

32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

The afterlife.  The Apostles Creed teaches that we believe “in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.”  The Nicene Creed substantiates that belief when we profess that we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”  These beliefs are integral to our understanding of God and the nature of our souls, but yet we still can have some doubts.  Our readings this week help us to lay some of those doubts to rest:

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

Our first reading is a from 2 Maccabees, a book written about 100-150 years before Christ.  This week’s passage tells the story of a Hebrew family being tortured and killed by their Greek Seleucid overlords.  The reading shows their valiant desire to keep God’s law, which in itself is 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.  Our Psalm reflects the adversity faced by this family at the hands of their tormentors, yet their trust the Lord will hear their cry as we sing, “Lord, when you r glory appears, my joy will be full.”

Our gospel from Luke continues with this subject of the afterlife.  For the past few months we’ve been traveling with Jesus 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 now trying to correct.  He encourages them to find strength in the Lord which will help them guard against the evil one, and that the Lord will direct their hearts.

Final thoughts:

Our belief in the afterlife was not something that came in an instantaneous revelation.  Rather, it was an understanding that grew and evolved over time as our relationship with God grew and evolved.  Many of the great prophets eluded to the concept of life after death, but it wasn’t until the writing of the book of Maccabees that we see an established understanding of the resurrection.  In fact, by the time of Jesus, not all the different Jewish factions held this belief, and even today there are many who doubt that there is anything that awaits us after our life on earth.

We Catholics, however, have come to the understanding that our lives are much more than our corporal existence on earth.  A belief that is made clear by Jesus in the Gospels.  That the immortality of our souls has us joining with the communion of saints.  Yet like the Sadducees Jesus was conversing with in this week’s Gospel, we have a tendency to see God through the lens of our human limitations.  On the contrary, God is infinitely more than we can possibly imagine, and since we, his creations, are made in his image and likeness, we too can look forward to life everlasting.

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