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32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

Perhaps, many of you are wondering how come the readings sound odd and seem strange talking about marriage, martyrdom and resurrection at a time when the holiday season is just about to kick- off starting of course, with thanksgiving. It would have been be a real treat if the readings gave us new recipes for meals and tips for shopping wisely. The church's calendar runs slightly different. It's closing time. It ends in three weeks and starts again on thanksgiving weekend. It should be no surprise for everyone if the church has given us a very special theme about resurrection and its implication after listening to the Gospel of Luke for almost a year now. We are heading towards the end of the liturgical year and so the theme leads us into eternity, life after death.  

The first reading from the book of Maccabees relates the fate of the seven brothers and their mother who were 'arrested and tortured with whips and scourges' in the name of faith. They suffered martyrdom at the hands of the king whose name was not mentioned. They were Jewish martyrs. They chose to die for their faith, refused to obey what the king demanded and forced them to do that is, to eat pork which was contrary to their belief and tradition of their ancestors. One of them said, "what do you expect to achieve by questioning us?" We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors." Just before taking his last breath, he added: "You accursed friend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the king of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying." The third stuck his tongue out as soon as he was told without any hesitation and raised his hands in orans position and spoke: "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." As mentioned, "even the King and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage, because he regarded  his sufferings as nothing." The fourth brother who was later killed testified: "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." I'm not sure if they were experts of the law but always, always, the proof of genuine and true faith is dying into it, martyrdom. Because the idea of resurrection emerges from God's vindication for those who suffered and died for their faith, endured terrible suffering and remained faithful until death, God will raise them up and will do justice to those responsible. That means, resurrection is an entirely different phenomenon and event which lies outside the earthly realm and depends solely on God. 

The Gospel is similar in style and scope as it relates the silly question posed by the Sadducees to Jesus about resurrection. It was intended to mock and embarrass Jesus in the crowd but instead, he turned it into a teachable moment about the all-important belief in the resurrection and the after-life and the nature of it all. 

While differences in beliefs and practices and traditions are true in Ancient Judaism, the same holds true in Christianity. An expert said that whatever Catholicism has dropped in its conversation, other denominations picked and one of which was the after-life and second coming (Parousia). How many of us talk about religion in the dinner table? Just because we have differences doesn't mean we won't engage into a friendly discussion and healthy conversation with others. 

Jesus said, "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise  even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out 'Lord,' the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God the dead , but of the living, for to him all are alive." 

It's relatively easy for a modern reader to find this dramatic encounter of Jesus and the Sadducees, described in the Gospel as "those who deny there is a resurrection," as terribly confounding given an entirely absurd scenario (Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?). It shouldn't take us any length of time to discern that this remarkable story is meant to trap him, shame him before everyone present and prove him wrong and lacking knowledge. It was a query about resurrection, with the sole intent of embarrassing him in the crowd and certainly, not to seek greater knowledge nor dialogue. What piqued my interest was how Jesus handled the situation and took over it. Rather than taking it personally and letting himself be affected by the whole controversy as the case may have been, he acted quite differently. He seized, the- would- have- been- entrapment as a  teachable moment to expose the all-important belief in life after death and heaven, as well. 

The question that has constantly puzzled humankind ever since the world began is what comes after death. All of us at some point in life (from childhood - adulthood) asked whether earthly life is all there is to it. Is this life the be- all and end- all of everything? Experience tells us, we are but mere mortals. Life on earth is temporary. It’s passing. It’s a transitional. For Christians, death is the birth to new life. When we die, we will face divine judgment and be purified in purgatory. We won't reach our final destination until we enjoy the everlasting bliss, basking at the beatic vision.

Resurrection was a later development in Judaism. It was for this reason that the Sadducees, a sect heavily preoccupied with Mosaic law, this time in particular, levirate marriage, found it hard to believe in such a radically new thing, that is, rising from the dead. Resurrection is a totally different kind of existence, a much higher level than here and now. It can't be understood simply as a continuation of the present time which reminds me of the song that says it all, In Heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here. It's just fair to stop from breaking it down into details because the more I attempt to depict what resurrection from the dead will be like, the more I will make people confused about a reality that lies outside the realm of human language. For now, let's just do our best, keep our faith intact knowing that God is in full control both of the present and the future "for to him all are alive." Amen.

Tags: 32ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

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