1st Reading — 2 Maccabees 7: 1-2, 9-14
This book tells of the gruesome atrocities endured by the Jews under the Greek leader, Antiochus Epiphanes about 150 BC. He is noted for the “abomination of desolation” in which he had pigs sacrificed in the Temple’s Holy of Holies to the Greek god, Zeus. The purpose of this book is to edify its readers in their Jewish faith, recalling for them the beautiful examples given by those who defended the cause of God. It places great hope in the rewards that await those who suffer for their faith. The death of martyrs can bring salvation to others. It is believed that it is out of such suffering that a firm belief in resurrection began to grow in the Jewish faith. (Celebration, Nov.2001)
The name Maccabees means “designated by God,” an apt title for one who would so courageously lead the people in their fight for independence (W&W, Birmingham, p. 526). What do you think of someone showing no fear in the face of adversity because of their belief in resurrection?
2nd Reading — 2 Thessalonians 2: 16 – 3: 5
There is something deeply moving in the thought of this giant among men asking for the prayers of the Thessalonians who so well recognized their own weakness (like Pope Francis?). It is very difficult to dislike a man who asks you to pray for him! In the last verse of this passage we see what we might call the inward and outward characteristics of the Christian. The inward characteristic is the awareness of the love of God, the deep awareness that we cannot drift beyond his care, the sense that the everlasting arms are underneath us. The outward characteristic is the endurance which Christ can give. We live in a time that more and more people have the feeling that they cannot cope with life. With the love of God in his heart and the strength of Christ in his life a man can face anything (Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series, p. 216). How does the Lord direct your heart?
Gospel Reading — Luke 20: 27-38
Jesus is finally in Jerusalem:
in Luke 19: 29+, he entered the city on a donkey.
In verses 41+, he weeps over Jerusalem
because they will not recognize the “things that make for peace.”
He enters the Temple and ‘cleanses’ it,
calling it a House of Prayer not a den of thieves.
Needless to say, the chief priests and leaders of the people were plotting to ‘trap’ him . . . After much controversy, we then have this reading.
THE SADDUCEES, mostly priests, were the wealthy aristocracy of the day. They were the privileged presiders of temple ritual and sacrifices. They did not believe in the resurrection of the dead (a much debated subject at Jesus’ time). The Pharisees, mostly laymen, on the other hand, did believe in resurrection. The Sadducees, as an elite class, also enjoyed a very cooperative and profitable relationship with Rome.
Jesus was part of a culture that was prone to conflict because of its emphasis on honor. To gain and augment personal honor, one must challenge another in hope that the challenged person will look weak. Jesus may not have started the argument, but he is not against putting the opponents on the defensive and letting them look ‘stupid’ in comparison with his own clear thinking. One can see how such confrontation eventually could lead to their wanting to get rid of him. Yet, Jesus speaks what he knows to be true, not letting fear rule him.(The Cultural World of Jesus, John Pilch, 161-163)
To translate marriage in the present life into resurrection terms is impossible. The transformation of the resurrected body from matter to spirit is so total that earthly considerations no longer have meaning. It is hard for us to grasp because we aren’t there yet. We like to know, but it is unknowable. All we do know is it is vastly superior to the present life, and it is vastly different. The central joy of heaven is life in and with God with no fear of loss. We must pray, in the spirit of St. Paul, to be strengthened and with the firm conviction that the God who is faithful will bring us home (Faley, Footprints on the Mountain, p. 724).