The reading we hear today from Maccabees, has seven brothers all prepared to die rather than break God’s law. These brothers, martyrs of the Old Testament, inspired the martyrs of the New Testament, many of whom we hear their names, sometimes in the Eucharistic Prayer, but know very little about them. Their names have lived forever on earth, just as they will live forever in heaven. The words of the last brother sing out to us centuries later as we remember God’s promise ‘that we shall be raised up by Him’, the same promise which we have faith in through our baptism and the trust we have in Jesus.
Do we think that our faith could withstand persecution?
The psalm today is a plea to God to resurrect those who have been faithful to His Word, as it cries out ‘in my justice I shall see your face and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory.’ Again, the same hope we have in the resurrection.
The part of the letter from St Paul to the Thessalonians we hear today is so rich. It firstly affirms the love Jesus has for His followers so that they should feel comforted and strengthened by that love. Next it calls on those who hear Jesus’ message to receive it with honour and to spread that message. We are then reminded to be wary of bigots and evil people, because faith has not been given to everyone; this is a reminder that we have been chosen. Finally, the letter reminds the readers that the Lord will protect us from the evil one, because the Lord is always faithful.
Do we believe and accept this?
In the Gospel today we hear the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, try to set a trap for Jesus. They were using quite a Rabbinic style to try and trap Jesus; this Rabbinic style is where they want to use the letter of the law; with their interpretation; instead of the spirit of the law. The ancient law from Deuteronomy (25:5-6) is called the levirate law. It states that when brothers live together, if one of them dies childless then the wife is not permitted to marry a stranger; but that the surviving brother must take his dead brother’s wife to give him an heir.
The Sadducees, give a ridiculous example of the application of this law and ask who the woman will be wife to, at the resurrection. Jesus, understanding where the Sadducees are coming from quotes Exodus (3:6) to the Sadducees, stating that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that God is the God of the living, because for God all men are alive.
What Jesus is saying here is that it is only our body that dies when our time on earth is over. Our spirit lives on. Many married people may be upset at the words in today’s Gospel. But when we marry, we marry ‘until death us do part’. At the end of our life together we will no longer be married.1 As we hear in the Gospel we become ‘children of the resurrection and sons of God’. We become the same as the angels and there is no need to be married as we can neither procreate nor die.
As GB Caird (a theologian and Biblical scholar) wrote ‘Jesus is saying, in effect: all life, here and hereafter, consists of friendship with God, and nothing less is worthy of the name of life. Abraham was the friend of God, and it is incredible that such a friendship should be severed by death. Death may put an end to physical existence, but not to a relationship that is by nature eternal. Men may lose their friends by death, but not God.’2
The Church asks us during November to pray for our dead, and as a nation we also remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. It is in fact one of the Spiritual acts of mercy that we can do; to pray for the living and the dead. This is a very important tradition of the Church. It is something we all need to do and it is something we need to teach our children to do too. One day we may need them to be praying for us.
I remember as a young boy, the only deceased member of my family that I could remember meeting was a lady I knew as Granny Buckie; she was my maternal grandmother’s mum. I remember praying faithfully for her every night before I went to sleep. That is not something I came up with by myself; my mum encouraged this in me. We also need to remember to pray for those who have no-one to pray for them. These souls in purgatory, need our help, so that when they are freed from purgatory, they can pray for us from heaven.
This week I have had to add another soul to pray for. I often quote from a Benedictine monk named Fr Placid Murray OSB, this week he went to his eternal reward at the grand age of 104. He had a long life and was a priest for over 80 years, he was well respected and in 1970, he was asked by the bishops of Ireland, Great Britain, and Australia, to chair the committee that translated the Liturgy of the Hours for use in these countries. The resulting breviary, in three volumes, remains the standard breviary for most non-American speakers of English. May his soul rest in peace and rise in Glory.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 992-996: the progressive revelation of resurrection
CCC 997-1004: our resurrection in Christ
CCC 1023-1029: heaven
CCC 1030-1032: purgatory, the final purification
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Peace in the world, especially Ukraine, Russia, North and South Korea and Iran
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those in business who have the power to make decisions to help the poor.
- All those working in Parishes and the Diocese on the ten-year plan
- All who are persecuted because of their faith.
- The souls in Purgatory, especially those with no-one to pray for them.
1 Maurice & Margaret Magee, I am with You – Year C, [Two in one Flesh, Caterham, 2012]126.
2 G B Caird taken from Windows on Luke, [Kevin Mayhew Ltd, Stowmarket, Suffolk, 2000]247.