Joseph S. Mostardi, O.S.A.
Blessed Stephen Bellesini Friary
2 Macc 7: 1-2, 9-14
Ps 17: 1, 5-6, 8, 15
2 Thess 2: 16 - 3: 5
Lk 20: 27-38 or 20: 27, 34-38
If you were able to take a magnifying glass and use it to carefully enlarge the words in today’s readings, you see that one must read between the lines to extract the full meaning of these sacred texts. Understanding the message takes careful scrutiny especially when the context of the readings are not always apparent. Sometimes it takes the words of St. Paul in our second reading to provide us with a prayer to see clearly what is right before our eyes… May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.
At first glance, these readings may appear to be about the Mosaic Law but if one were to look into them a bit deeper, you would see that the real essence of these readings relates specifically to the afterlife. Both the author of the Book of Maccabees and St. Luke are expressing their understanding of life after death woven into two unique passages each taking us to the same place.
One of the most difficult aspects of our faith comes with trying to explain the mystery of life and death. Today’s readings lend themselves well to this topic if we can go beneath the surface and read between the lines to see what they are really teaching us about this reality we call, eternal life.
The seven brothers and their mother, as faithful members of God people, would rather die than betray the covenant that they have held so precious for generations. They truly believe that their faithfulness will be truly rewarded with life eternal. A concept foreign to their persecutors.
Jesus, on the other hand, is being tested by the Sadducees but as always turns the table on their questioning and disbelief as he answered their concern so that they are unable to respond. Their doubts about the resurrection were challenged by Christ in such a way that they probably left questioning their own beliefs rather than catching Jesus in a rhetorical trap which they thought they had carefully set.
Normally, we do not dwell on this human reality unless confronted with the death of a friend or loved one. These final weeks of the liturgical year often have us thinking about the mystery of life and death without the pain of loss. This Sunday is no exception. We need to contemplate our mortality and there is no better time for us to do this than in the month of November. Having just celebrated All Saints and All Souls Day, we are primed to consider the ramifications of our fragile state here on earth. We do not know what happens after death. If we can approach our death in such a way that we are as ready and willing to die for what we believe, as the band of brothers in our first reading or able to convince unbelievers that there is life after death as Jesus did, no matter how difficult it might be to accept that condition of our humanity, then we can hope for what was promised by Christ through his dying and rising from the dead. St. Augustine tells us to, “Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.” Our desire to believe can often be clouded by our skeptical nature as humans but if we act in faith than understanding has a way of easing our skepticism and doubts about those things that are difficult to understand. We may not be able to handle death as mere humans but as Christians we can learn to accept what we believe in our heart as true, recalling again the words of St. Paul, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.” Magnify these words to see how Christ will strengthen you in the faith that we all profess.