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 the second brother 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 brother 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 and 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 suffering 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."(P) The word of the Lord.
Hear, O Lord, a just cause; attend to my outcry; listen to my prayer from lips without deceit. (R)
My steps had been steadfast in your paths, my feet have not faltered. I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my word. (R)
Keep me as the pupil of your eye, hide me in the shadow of your wings. But I in justice shall behold your face; on waking I shall be content in your presence. (R)
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 spread quickly 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 strength 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.(P) The word of the Lord.
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this questions 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 take wives and husbands; 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 the 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."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
One day a man said to his friend, "I've got something to tell you. I've never told this to anyone. Even now it's extremely difficult and painful for me to tell you. Encouraged by his friend he said, "My wife and I have had a fight almost every day for the past thirty years of our marriage." The friend was taken aback. He didn't know what to say. He thought that they were the best married and happiest couple he had ever known. After a brief pause, the friend said, "Everyday?" The man said, "Yes, just about every day." The friend asked, "Did you fight today before you came to see me?" "Yes", the man said. "Well, how did it end up?" the friend asked. "Oh..." the man said, "She came crawling to me on her hands and knees." "My goodness what did she say?" his friend asked. The man said, "Oh..." she said "come out from under that bed you coward and fight like a man".
The Sadducees often disrupted Jesus' preaching and vigorously argued with him on many things. Jesus did not run away or hide from them. Every time he patiently and kindly clarified their doubts by quoting the scriptures. But they always returned to test and trap him. The exchange between Jesus and some Sadducees of which we read in today's gospel is perhaps the most important. Their question pertains to a fundamental doctrine of Christian faith - the resurrection of body. They seem to suggest that Jesus has been clever in answering their questions so far but this time he would fail.
Who were the Sadducees? At the time of Jesus, the Sadducees were one of the three main Jewish political and religious sects. They were aristocrats and priests. They were members of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin. They saw themselves as conservatives. They accepted only the written Law of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament, as authoritative. They rejected many of the beliefs held by the Pharisees and by Jesus, including the resurrection from the dead. Today's gospel describes the Sadducees as "those who deny that there is a resurrection", Luke (20:27). They thought believing in the resurrection is superstitious. They also did not believe in the existence of a spiritual world where angels and evil spirits abide. They denied God's involvement in everyday life. They denied there is any punishment or reward after this earthly life. However, their beliefs contradicted the Scriptures.
Though the Pharisees were rivals of the Sadducees, they were in constant conflict with Jesus. In today's text the Sadducees are asking Jesus for his views on a woman who had been married to seven men - each after the death of another. The question to Jesus is after their death at the resurrection whose wife she would be. Jesus answers them in two ways:
So what does Jesus' conversation with the Sadducees have to tell us today?
It is difficult for us to understand our belief in the resurrection. I don't think any of us can fully grasp or explain it to others. We can only imagine what it will be like. Some people imagine that there will be no more sickness, suffering or pain but only hope, peace and joy.
The only way to approach the resurrection is with a genuine faith both in the scriptures and tradition. Let us not waste our time arguing with others on any of our doctrines. If we can quote scriptural passages to support and defend any of our beliefs then it is great. If we lack scriptural knowledge then we can use the means of "tradition". Tradition I mean not just the use of certain things for worship such as candles, holy water, vestments, scapular etc. but beliefs and hopes which have been traditionally handed down to us from one generation to the other.
Jesus' reply to the Sadducees affirms that there is a resurrection where the new life will be much different from what we think it will be. He says that we'll be transfigured. That everything - our life and our relationships will be changed. We will just be the children of God. We will be angels. While on earth people may see us more as devils than as angels but Gods sees us angels. We shall never be separated from God again after death. Just as Jesus rose with a resurrected body, we too will have a resurrected body. We will be alive in God. We will recognize each other like the disciples recognized Jesus after his resurrection. The gospels narrate that Jesus rose physically from the dead: his tomb was empty, he dined with his disciples, he had a body of flesh and bones, people recognized him, touched him and talked to him. So also we will recognize people after our resurrection but our relationship will be different.
Who will be resurrected from the dead? Will all people be resurrected or just the believers? Saint Paul believes that every person born on earth will be resurrected because Jesus Christ overcame death for all. However, not all people will be resurrected to the same glory nor all will be resurrected at the same time, 1-Cor. (15:20-42). Because he says that the righteous will be resurrected before the wicked and will come forth in the first resurrection, 1-Thes. (4:16) and the unrepentant sinners will come forth in the last resurrection, Rev. (20:5-13). That's why we are called upon to pray for souls. We pray that God may forgive them and welcome them into the eternal home.
In the gospel of Mark (10:35-40) we read that two brother disciples, James and John approached Jesus and asked him to do them a favor - to allow them to sit one at his left and the other on his right. Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I shall drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I shall be baptized?" In other words, Jesus asked them, "Can you suffer like me; and can you be obedient or faithful to God?" They said, "We can." Jesus said to them, "The cup that I shall drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I shall be baptized you shall be baptized, but as for sitting on my right hand or my left, these are not mine to give; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted."
In other words, we are reminded that we can hope for greater things to come but we must work for it. We must fulfill the requirements for resurrection. Since we are assured of resurrection we must live differently. If Jesus returns and catches us living in a worldly manner, then we may well be overlooked. Jesus, in several parables, strongly tells us that many believers will miss out. Jesus says we must be ready because He is coming when we least expect Him, Matthew (24:44). We need to stand up for righteousness and holiness, and shun all worldliness. Let us live for God. Let us respond to God with our entire being.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!