Sunday Sermon for November 10, 2019, the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: 2 Mac 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thes 2:16-3:5; Lk 20:27-38
In the first reading today we hear about three of the seven heroic brothers who were all put to death on the same day because they refused to eat pork as commanded by the pagan king. Most heroic of all was their truly mother who encouraged them all in their martyrdom and then suffered martyrdom herself. If she were not expecting to see her sons again, her actions would have been pious but foolish and futile. In the three we hear about it is inspiring to see the boldness these men had as they faced death. Only one reason can explain their disposition: faith in God and in eternal life.
This is made clear in the taunting of these young men when they put out their tongues and held out their hands to be cut off. The second young man to be martyred stated: “You are depriving us of life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” The third to die said, speaking of his hands and tongue: “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of His laws I disdain them; from Him I hope to receive them again.” The fourth brother said: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by Him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”
Their faith in God and their unwillingness to violate His laws, coupled with their hope in the resurrection, gave these young men the strength to suffer a gruesome death rather than act contrary to what God had revealed. As Christian people we have even greater cause for courage in the face of death. The Son of God revealed the fullness of life to us and showed us that death is the entrance into that life. If we are given the opportunity to be martyred, we should run toward it with courage and confidence rather than running away in fear.
St. Paul even prays this way in the second reading: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” It is good for us to stop and consider some of these questions regarding the Faith and how we are live out our Faith. Sometimes we are afraid to stand for the truth because of the cost; sometimes we are unwilling to perform an act of charity because of our selfishness; sometimes we are afraid to die because we lack hope.
Jesus not only guaranteed the resurrection from the dead, but He rose from the dead to give proof to His promise. This life is brief; eternal life is forever. This life is filled with sorrows and suffering; eternal life is filled with joy and no suffering. This life is where we struggle to learn truth and love; eternal life is truth and love in their fullness. It is with this in mind that we have to consider what Jesus says about the resurrection in the Gospel today.
First, He says in the resurrection people neither marry nor are they given in marriage. This is not because something is wrong with marriage or married life. It was Jesus Himself Who raised marriage to the level of a Sacrament, so He is not denigrating it here. Rather, Heaven is marriage, but everyone who is a member of the Bride of Christ, that is, everyone in Heaven, will be united together in love and they will be united to the Lord in love. The bond will be even closer than the bond a couple shares in married life on earth.
Second, He says the people who have risen from the dead cannot die any more because they are equal to the angels. The Gospels of Saints Matthew and Mark state the people in the resurrection are like the angels. In neither does it suggest that we will become angels. No, we are human persons, body and soul, and we will not become angels. Rather, as spiritual beings we will be like the angels, no longer experiencing the weaknesses and limitations of the body.
Finally, He says the people in the resurrection are sons of God. In baptism we are already sons and daughters of God, but in marriage there needs to be an equality of the persons who are united. Jesus came into this world and became one of us; in Heaven He will make us like Himself. These are the points of faith and hope which have given the martyrs confidence and charity to die. If you are given the opportunity to die for Christ, how will you respond?
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.