“Cherish the hope God gives of being raised by him” (2 Macc 7:14)

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God's law. One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said: "What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors." At the point of death he said: "You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying." After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put out his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words: "It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again." Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man's courage, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing. After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way. When he was near death, he said, "It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life."

2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5

Brothers and sisters: May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you, you are doing and will continue to do. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.

Luke 20:27-38

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone's brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her." Jesus said to them, "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘Lord,’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive."

How far are we willing to push the boundaries in order to reach our ultimate goal or to fulfill our deepest desires? This week’s readings offer some refreshing and encouraging insights about taking a stand for something (or someone) in which (whom) we truly believe. From the tales of the violent death of the seven brothers in Maccabees to the encouraging words of St. Paul; from the Psalmist’s hope-filled prayer to Jesus’ teachings about resurrection and eternal life, the Holy Spirit is gently guiding our gaze away from ourselves – our earthly concerns and worries – to the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords; “to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thes 3:5).

In the first reading, the story about the seven brothers told in 2 Maccabees can surely surpass any Netflix series! This story has everything a blockbuster needs: the villain – a raging king, Antiochus; the heroes – seven righteous and defiant brothers; the witness – the grieving mother; and of course, violence – “torture with whips and thongs”; and death (2 Macc 7:1). Behind the seemingly gratuitous violence lies a tableau of courage rooted in one’s unflinching faith and hope in God. In this animated story, Antiochus compels the seven brothers to eat swine’s flesh that is prohibited by the laws of their ancestors. One of the brothers bravely retorts by saying that they’d rather die than betray their God. One by one, the brothers are tortured and put to death, but not before proclaiming their steadfast faith and hope in the God of their ancestors, “One cannot but choose to […] cherish the hope God gives of being raised by him” (2 Macc 7:14). In the same way, we are reminded of God’s unconditional love and faithfulness and are called to take courage in taking a stand for our faith – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). All seven brothers die in the hope that God, “King of the universe” (contrary to King Antioch’s limited, temporary, and elusive power), will raise them up “to an everlasting renewal of life” (2 Macc 7:9). King Antiochus may have the power to take away lives but he is utterly powerless in raising up lives!

St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians reminds us that “the Lord is faithful” and will “strengthen” and “guard” us from “the evil one” (2 Thes 3:3). When we encounter impossible situations or people in our everyday lives, we are tempted to either lash out in rage (complaints, gossips, etc.) or simply throw in the towel. The seven brothers in Maccabees have gone through worse and yet they refuse to surrender! They stand firm in defending their faith; knowing that they will be raised by God. Therefore, as St. Paul writes, may we stand firm in “good hope” and be strengthened by God’s love (2 Thes 2:16).

So, what is eternal life? Certainly, it looks nothing like our earthly existence. Jesus explains, “they cannot die anymore […] being children of the resurrection” (Lk 20:36). In the Sadducees’ attempt to trap Jesus with yet another mundane scenario, Jesus has shown them, and us, that “those who are considered worthy of a place in … the resurrection from the dead […] are like Angels and are sons and daughters of God, being children of the resurrection” (Lk 20:34-36). Can we “earn” our rightful place in resurrection? We must be mindful that salvation is a gift, not a right to be “earned”: “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph 2:8-9). As for resurrection, “All the dead will rise, ‘those who have done good [i.e. those who are saved], to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment” (CCC 998, cf. Daniel 12:2).

As we journey on over hills and valleys, let us turn our gaze away from our own darkness to the light of Christ. “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope”. (2Thes 2:16)

Posted: November 10, 2019

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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