32nd of the Year, 6 Nov 22
Today`s readings remind us of our calling to be united with Christ at the end of time – that our life here on earth is transient and may, in a sense, be seen as a journey in preparation for our final calling of full union with Jesus at the end of our pilgrim journey.
The reading from the apocryphal second book of the Maccabees shows how the seven brothers with their mother preferred to suffer tortures and death rather than violating the Law of Moses because, unlike the Sadducees, whom we heard about in the Gospel reading, they firmly hoped in their future resurrection. We find the fourth of the brothers saying these words: `Ours is the better choice, to meet death at men`s hands, yet relying on God`s promise that we shall be raised up by him....`
St. Paul. Likewise, in his second letter to the Christians at Thessalonica clearly has the hope of the resurrection for by way of encouraging those who received his letter writes these words: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good that you do or say.”
St. Cyril of Jerusalem who lived in the fourth century, a great teacher of the faith, who was bishop of that holy city for some 38 years and later proclaimed a saint and Doctor of the Church, because of his great faith in the resurrection to which we Christians are called, wrote these words: “Respect your body since it is your good fortune to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not stain your body….and if perchance you have stained it, purify it right away through penance. Clean it while you still have time.”
We know a great deal about the Pharisees from the gospels but not so much about the Sadducees who were a powerful religious and political sect, believing themselves to be in the line of Aaron and Zadok, and of the ruling classes. They lasted for only about 200 years but were active in the time of Jesus and saw him as a threat and so, like the Pharisees but for different reasons, were anxious to catch him out and get rid of him. They were concerned with the maintenance of the Temple and thus they petered out in about AD70 following the destruction of the Temple. In today`s gospel reading we find them trying to catch Jesus out with the questioning about the widow who had been married to seven brothers following the death`s of each one and asking that if there is a resurrection which one would be her husband. Jesus has no truck with this explaining that although there need in this world for people to marry in order to make a line of succession there is no marriage in Heaven for since all in Heaven will live for ever for the children of the resurrection are the sons (and by implication daughters) of God.
In a few minutes we shall be professing our faith in the words of The Nicene Greed which ends with those powerful words: `…..the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen`
To go back to Our Lord dealing with the error of the Sadducees. He argues that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, that is to say, there exists a permanent relationship between God and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for although these just men have died to this world – and have been dead for centuries, they are truly alive in God for their souls are immortal – and they are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies.
The credal belief in the “..resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” Is based on the very resurrection of Jesus. When he comes again, He will raise up our mortal bodies, just like his own glorified body after His resurrection – raised up by God.
November is sometimes erroneously described as THE MONTH OF THE DEAD. Yes, it is true that on the 1st we kept the Solemnity of All Saints – those who have gone before us with the Sign of Faith, on the 2nd we prayed for All Souls – neither are dead, well only to this world, but living. Soon we shall be keeping Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. WE keep these days holy precisely because the truth about the resurrection is that God is love. He loves us so much that he wants us to live with him for ever.
We need to be reminded too that death is the effect of sin and the Apostle Paul said: “The wages of sin is death.” This must surely make each of aware of our own sinfulness and our need for God`s loving forgiveness. Our Lady of Lourdes in one of her appearances to St. Bernadette says “wash yourself in the fountain” reminding us of the healing power of Christ and the water flowing from the side of Jesus on the Cross. And this, surely, points us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Church at large has drifted from the frequent practice of this great Sacrament which should be seen as vital in our quest for resurrection and eternal life. It is the best possible way of availing ourselves of God`s mercy and pardon and the assurance of His loving forgiveness. However we might remind ourselves of the five essential elements of the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
1. Contrition or sincere sorrow for our sins – a penitent heart and soul and firm purpose of amendment. 2. Personal confession to a priest that we might receive advice or counsel and a penance . 3. Absolution from God imparted by the priest confessor. 4. Resolution and restitution – decision to amend life and, wherever possible to repay the damage caused by sin. 5. Satisfaction – fulfillmenty of the penance given by the priest followed by an act of thanksgiving for sins freely forgiven by Almighty God.
This sacrament is one of the ways in which we can recognise ourselves as a Resurrection People.
Of course, using the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation is costly – not least because it means we have to face the dark side of ourselves and bring it to Jesus for His healing touch and loving forgiveness and it requires a certain humility and brings us closer to Our Lord at The Cross.