2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5, Luke 20:27-38
The Life at the End of Life.
Have we for one day sat down and pondered on the mystery of life? Can we have a minute of reflection and remember all the people we met or encountered in the past?
Can we remember some of them that are no more? What happened to them? Where did they migrate?
Have we also take time to reflect that what happened to these people will also happen to us one day? No matter how we want to dodge it, it is a package that awaits each one of us.
The problem is that we live in this world as if everything ends in this world. As we have celebrated the feast of All Saints and All Souls, both of which point to the existence of the afterlife, the Church in her wisdom uses the readings of this Sunday, to remind us of the truth that life at the end of life is real.
Have we for one day thought of life at the end of all our enjoyments in this world? Have we for a day thought of the life at the end of life for all the pleasures of this world? Or do you think everything about you will only end in this world?
Secondly, have we, for a day, asked the whereabouts of our brothers who have departed? When we also join them, where could be our destination?
Do we believe and accept that there is Life at the end of this earthly journey? Or do we think that we shall remain in the world forever and ever?
This calls for a huge reflection. With what happened in the first reading between the seven brothers and Jesus’ encounter with the Sadducees, in the gospel, what the readings of today want to do is simply to remind us of life at the end of life.
This is a future that lies ahead of life. Hence, sometimes we live as if the world belongs to us. We forget that something huge lies ahead of us. We overlook and even forget to prepare for it until it comes to us by surprise.
Benjamin Franklin says, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death.” His words remind us of a very real truth: One of the things we all have in common is that everyone must leave this earth. We always know this truth. We have heard it preached and taught over and over again.
Also, We have seen people die and we wonder where they go. Hence, we live in this world as if nothing is happening. We neglect God and our souls.
Many people today want to acquire the whole earth, they believe that death is never their portion. Then, when it becomes clearer to them that this is a price that all must pay, they begin to seek last-minute salvation.
There is a life at the end of life. We have to know it, think about it, prepare for it and become willing to defend our faith, even in the face of opposition. This is the message of today. Let us take the readings gradually in a step-by-step analysis.
Jesus and the Sadducees.
We begin our analysis today with the gospel. Today, Some Sadducees approached Jesus with a question about the resurrection of the dead.
The question was about a woman who marries seven brothers after which both the woman and the seven brothers died.
Now, the question then was if the resurrection of the dead is true, whose husband will the woman be at the time of the resurrection of the dead?
To understand this question or the reason for this question very well, we need to understand the type of people these Sadducees are. We also need to read the preceding verses and understand the reason.
Who are the Sadducees?
The Sadducees are mentioned once in the gospel of saint Luke. The Sadducees deny that there is anything like the resurrection of the dead. They do not also believe in angels, demons, the afterlife, heaven and hell. They see themselves as people who know, why others are doomed.
The Sadducees are anti super-naturalistic, they accepted only the first five books of Moses as authentic. They do not believe in anything about immortality.
They were conservative, aristocratic and worldly-minded. These people are like the Ama Jehovah’s (Jehovah’s witness) of today. Nothing concerns them about heaven or the spirit. So, for them, any discussion about the resurrection or the afterlife is a nonsense discussion that has no meaning.
Just as many people believe today. So, the question they asked Jesus today, is a way to show that the notion of the resurrection has no meaning, but instead of that, they were taught by Jesus about the resurrection and the reality of Life after the end of life.
Secondly, when you read the preceding verses before this particular gospel. You will discover that from the beginning verse of chapter twenty of this gospel, which is the chapter of today, Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, then the chief priests, the teachers of the law, with the elders, came to Jesus to challenge him. When they could not get at him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere (read from verse 20).
So, the spies questioned him “ Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” but Jesus saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?
So, they were unable to trap Jesus in what he had said there in public.
Now, from verse twenty-seven, when they could not get at Jesus, Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with the question.
Therefore, we have to understand the aim of the question is just to ridicule Jesus and His teachings. The underlying reason is to show that the idea of the resurrection was nonsense and baseless.
The Levirate Rule.
We need to understand this more. This is why I am taking this step by step in in-depth analysis.
When we go to Deuteronomy 25:5-10, it was there that it was stipulated that if a married man died childlessly, it would be his brother’s responsibility to impregnate his brother’s widow. It says
“If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfil the duty of a brother-in-law to her. The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel”.
So, this is why the Sadducees asked that in the resurrection, whose wife does she
This practice of a brother-in-law marrying the widow of his brother is known as levirate marriage. It comes from the Latin “lavir,” meaning “brother-in-law.” I hope we understand the analysis well.
Let us analyze Jesus’ response, so we can get to the root of our discussion.
When the Sadducees threw up their question, Jesus responded to the Sadducees that the people of this age marry and are given in marriage.
But those considered worthy of taking part in the next life to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage.
It means they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, children of the resurrection they are sons of God. The glaring facts from these responses are:
1. That truly, resurrection is not a nonsense discussion as the Sadducees think. In essence, the Sadducees thought they understood but they were the people who did not understand.
This points to the fact that biblical truths should not be understood literally. This is why we need spiritual guides who are trained in it to help us explain some of the things we do not understand. Whenever we pick everything in the bible literally we think like the Sadducees.
2. It also points to the fact that the afterlife is not a fairy tale. There is life after the end of life. This is a warning also to the Sadducees and many of us who think that everything we are ends in this world.
Sometimes we neglect and forget that there is something huge awaiting us at the end. It is already at the end of life, that many of us find out that the life we are living is just temporal.
There is life after the end of our lives here on earth. It is glaring every day. But the more it happens to us, it seems the more we are obstinate towards this truth.
The truth is that no one thinks of his or her end now, almost everyone believes that death is not his or her portion, until it becomes clear to us that it will surely be our portion one day.
Therefore, the best is not just to pray that we do not die, but that we prepare for it every day and every time before life takes us unawares.
3. Jesus’ response to this, shows that the resurrection life is a life of an entirely different order.
It is a life that is quite different from this life.
It is a life of a completely different order. Many wonder if marriage relationships will exist in heaven, or if those who are husband and wife on earth will have no special relationship in heaven.
We are not told enough about life in the world beyond to answer in great detail, but Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9, that ‘no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human mind has conceived” the things God has prepared for those who love him.
Therefore, as we live, let us not forget that something is awaiting us. It must come. Therefore, we cannot run away from it, the best is to wait and plan for it on time.
He is God of the Living and Not the Dead.
This is one of those verses in the bible that many people misunderstand and they use it to argue against praying for the dead.
When we go through this reading and this response from Jesus we shall surely discover that this verse is not really against praying for the dead, rather it even supports it.
1. Jesus tells the Sadducees, ‘Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are alive.’ Let us read the last sentence again, “for to him all men are alive”.
Therefore, if Abraham and Isaac are dead yet God says that He is their God, that means they are still alive. In essence, what we call death is not even death. It is an eternal transition.
Death is when we suffer eternal damnation. That is why we ask God to have mercy on these souls and give them eternal life.
Also, we have to seek for the life after. There is a life after the end of life. We do not have to neglect this before life takes us unawares.
2. In fact, Jesus even quoted this to teach the Sadducees that the dead are not dead but still alive against their belief that the afterlife is not real.
To further prove his point about the resurrection of the dead, Jesus says that the encounter Moses had during his experience with the burning bush shows that the dead are not dead but raised.
He called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ Although these patriarchs are dead, Yet, Jesus says that Moses calls God, the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. He is only the God of the living.
Therefore, being the God of these Patriarchs is a pointer that they are alive and not dead.
In Wisdom 3:1-5, God says
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction, but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself.
Therefore, when God says that He is not the God of the dead but of the living, it does not mean that the dead are left out of the mercy of God. It is a wrong theology.
It means that those who lived righteous life are still connected with God. They have a strong relationship with God.
If God is not still connected with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He would not have said I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob rather He would have said, “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.
3. Therefore, when we live a life of closer relationship with God, we shall still enjoy life after the end of our earthly life.
In verse 8 of Wisdom chapter three, God says that the righteous who were dead among us are not dead. They are living and they will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever. This is also one of the reasons we ask the saints to pray for us.
In this gospel, Jesus says that they will be called Children of God, remember that in Luke 11:11-12, he asks “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? Have you seen the reason, the prayers of the saints are always powerful?
This then points to the fact, when somebody dies, it does not mean he is dies forever unless he suffers from damnation, rather he transforms into another state better than what he was. It also means that eternal bliss awaits all who constantly work and desire to be in a close relationship with God.
Strong Desire and Hope in the Life to Come: Story of the Seven Brothers.
In the gospel, the Sadducees came up with the story of seven brothers to disprove the reality of the resurrection, but in the first reading, the author of the Maccabees came up with the story of the seven brothers to prove and ascertain the reality of the life after the end of life.
In the first reading, the seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured by the king.
The king tried to force them to taste pig’s flesh, which the Law forbids, by torturing them with whips and scourges, yet they remain resolute.
They did not remain resolute for anything; rather, the hope in the life to come spurred the brothers Maccabees to remain faithful to God till death.
For example, the second one says to the king ‘you may discharge us from this present life, but the King of the world will raise us, since it is for his laws that we die, to live again forever.’
The fourth son says “‘Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men’s hands, yet relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised by him”
The brothers, one by one, preferred to suffer the torture, instead of violating God’s law. They have a strong desire that God will still bless them with the next life. Their hope was in the resurrection to come. They remained strong and resolute even in the face of death.
Now the question for us is that In the face of Life Persecution and Opposition in Life, can we also be able to stand strong and never lose faith in God? Can we able to defend our faith?
In the world, we will always encounter problems, troubles, challenges, persecution, opposition, people who will fight for us for no reason, and jealousy. This life is full of setbacks, persecutions and problems that sometimes tempt us to lose our faith.
These seven brothers today have taught us that these times of challenges are not the time to lose faith. They are not moments to speak ill against God.
Rather the times of great challenges, persecutions and oppositions in life are the best times to prove our faith in God.
1. In Matthew 5: 10-11, Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is a great reward awaiting you”.
But when we face problems and challenges in life instead of proving our faith in God in these times, we lose faith, stopped praying and lose the enthusiasm to remain close to God.
Until we begin to worship God wholeheartedly and normally, we will only see God as a miracle worker, Hence, when those miracles do not come, we fall away. We do not prove our faith and love for God when things are going well. We prove them when things become hard.
2. Today’s discussion about life after the end of life is good proof that Our life is limited. The truth about life is that nobody knows the day, the hour and the time God will call us home. But human beings do not want to hear this.
We believe that it will never be our portion until it becomes glaring that it is a journey that everybody must undergo. Our life is not and can never be forever and ever. One day, we must all depart. The question then is “if God calls us home today, how ready are we? How ready are you?
3. Like the seven brothers were able to stand strong and willing to sacrifice their life for the sake of keeping God’s law, can we be able to sacrifice whatever to gain eternal life?
In Mark 8:36, Jesus asks “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?
Therefore, If we can spend millions of money to appear good, and live a good life, why can’t we make just a little effort also to keep our souls alive? Therefore, We have to seek eternal life as one of our aspirations in life.
3. Like the Sadducees, some people think that everything they are ends in this world. This is the reason some politicians can deny their people good things. It is the reason they hoard what is for the people only to themselves.
Some of us pack earthly resources, thinking we will live here forever. One day, our eyes will open. The problem is that our eyes only open when it is too late.
4. The question of “What happens to us after we die?” is a question that every one of us needs to ask ourselves. The question is intensely relevant when we stand in a cemetery by the casket of someone precious to us; or when we are facing the stark reality of our death.
What happens to my soul after we die should also worry us as we worry about our daily bread. As you feed the body, do not forget that the soul also needs nourishment.
May God bless you, forgive us our sins and give us the grace to live eternal life. Amen.