Life After Death, 6th November 2016

The skepticism of the Sadducees in today’s Gospel still has a hold in many a Christian heart, even when in our creed we profess belief in the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. The thought of the after-life challenges our faith, and yet is one of the fundamental truths of our faith. At one level, today’s story of the mother and her sons is one of civil disobedience to an unjust law. But it is a memorable declaration of hope and trust in God’s faithful justice. Those who put their trust in God will have their reward. There is a future life of happiness in store for people who confide themselves to the living God. This is the same belief that sustained the confidence of the apostles – including Paul – and so many early Christians, in suffering martyrdom for the sake of the faith. Our Lord Jesus both clearly preached and practiced this belief in a life after death. In the Father’s house, he said, there are many mansions. He promised a future life to his disciples: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, enter into the Kingdom prepared for you.” To the repentant thief on the cross, he promised a place in Paradise. And he faced his own death in the firm hope that he was still in the Father’s hands. The First Reading tells us of a mother who saw her seven sons mercilessly tortured and killed by a tyrant because they refused to eat pork, which they believed was against the law of God. They would rather die than do something that would offend their God. The faithfulness of this woman and her children is out of the ordinary. They told the king that it was God who gave them their hands and other members of the body. He would give them back again at the resurrection of the dead. They had great faith indeed. They had no physical evidence of a resurrection of the dead. Years later, religious leaders still quarreled among themselves about the resurrection, as we see in today’s Gospel where the Sadducees attack Jesus because he preached the resurrection. How could the mother be so sure that they would rise again?

The woman might have experienced what Paul mentions in today’s Second Reading where he says: “may God … who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope … strengthen you in everything good that you do or say. … The Lord is faithful”. Her faith had been tested. She must have experienced many times God’s goodness in her life, she was sure that the God she believed in was real and faithful! Now, when things were difficult for her, she could not abandon this God. She knew that he would not let her down in the end. In case he would not rescue her from death, she was convinced that after her death he would restored her to life because of his faithfulness. Even if the religious leaders of her time were not sure about it, she knew in her heart that God would not abandon her and let her come to a miserable end just like that. Explaining to his critics the basis for believing in this future life, Jesus reminds them of that great expression: “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” God is the supremely Living One; and all those who belong to this God will live to him. This is the God we believe in, and it is into this God’s hands that we can fully commit our hope for an after-life. Our communities can, sometimes, wish to cling to an image of God which is actually very different from the God revealed by Jesus Christ. The image of a God who is a police man, watching out on what we do might be helpful for some time, but this neglect that God is love and that he gives us life out of love and that he invites us to share in his love. The Sadducees try to restrict the life-giving nature of God to this world. Jesus forces them to see things from a wider perspective. Jesus is still helping our communities also to be aware that his love cuts through all of life and that we are invited to respond to this and to let this go right through our cultural beliefs and practices also.  In our Mass today, let us lay aside our doubts and our fears as we place our future destiny, and that of all whom we love, in the hands of the living God – for in him all are alive.



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