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God's Word on Sunday: So much more awaits us in God’s Kingdom

  • November 6, 2022

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Nov. 6 (2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38)

Would we be willing to suffer torture and death for our faith and our inner convictions? We could be like Peter in the gospels and insist that we would stand fast even if everyone else chickened out. It is easy to boast of our courage and fortitude as long as the suffering is merely theoretical. But if we were to be hauled before authorities and forced to decide on the spot, it would not be so easy — in fact, the mere thought can be frightening. 

The brothers in the martyrdom account in Maccabees seemed unfazed by the pain and suffering that they were about to endure and almost seemed to shrug it off. But this is a martyrology — an account designed more to inspire than to relate stark facts. We can take their breezy nonchalance with a grain of salt. But in fact, many faithful Jews did suffer and die for their religious convictions during the Maccabean war at the hands of their Greek oppressors, who were attempting to obliterate Jewish religion and culture. 

These martyrs deemed remaining faithful to the laws of the God of their ancestors to be more important than clinging to life. They were also certain that God would recognize their loyalty by raising them from the dead and granting them new life. 

This is the first time that the Resurrection was mentioned in the Bible, and it appears in an apocryphal work rather than the Old Testament itself. Bloody and lethal martyrdom for the faith is relatively rare today but not by any means unknown, and usually transpires at the hands of totalitarian governments. There have been many cases in recent years where believers have paid the ultimate price for their faith. Often, they were not even presented with a choice. 

But in most societies, the call to deny one’s faith is far more indirect — and dangerous. There can be subtle and not-so-subtle pressures in the workplace, classroom or governments to violate one’s conscience and commitment to God. Ridicule, the loss of employment and social ostracism are the weapons of choice, and they take their toll. We can draw from the Maccabean account their firm commitment to God and their spiritual resolve, as well as their trust in God that their fidelity would not be in vain.

The Second Letter to the Thessalonians can provide some encouragement. The author calls upon God the Father and the Lord Jesus as the source of the love and grace that gives us comfort and good hope. He prays that they continue to comfort the hearts of believers in all that they say and do. The Lord is faithful, of that we can be sure. If our love remains secure, we will be strengthened and enabled to partake of the steadfastness of Christ in our trials. Facing life with all its challenges is not a solitary affair — we are surrounded by the love of Christ and the company of the angels.

The Sadducees were certain that they had Jesus backed into a corner with their no-win question. Since they did not believe in the Resurrection, they posed the seemingly impossible question about the woman married sequentially to seven brothers. At the Resurrection, whose wife will she be? Jesus answered in an unexpected way: she will not be married to any of the seven. The Resurrection transforms and lifts us to a very different level of existence — we will be like angels and sons and daughters of God. The Resurrection described in Maccabees was very literal and physical, but the image painted by Jesus was one of spiritual transformation. Those so transformed have no further need of marriage — this is an earthly need and practice. He challenged them to think in spiritual and transcendent terms rather than earthly ones. And to prove that the dead are raised, Jesus then described Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being alive in God, for God is God of the living and not the dead. 

His words were challenging to His listeners, as they might be to us if we stopped to ponder them. We need to expand and deepen our awareness. Life with God does not mean just picking up our earthly life where it left off, but a whole new way of existing. There are wonderful things in store for us!