II Maccabees 7, 1-2 and 9-14
- It is the story of an entire family tortured to death by the Syrian emperor. More than that, I hear the testimony of four brothers. The
testimony is steadfast and defiant in itself. What is its purpose? I think it was meant to encourage the Judeans to maintain their identity as a people and their faith in
- Seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured. So how should I read it for our Christian assembly today? This is most relevant, now that our own government has de facto
adopted techniques broadly identified as torture. Men and women, our fellow
citizens, are inflicting this on others in our name. I note that the Maccabees
are being questioned not in some secret facility who knows where, but very much in public, in sight of each other. I know that they see their mother and she sees them; they are not screaming in adjacent cells.
- Ironic contrast: They are tortured by the king (of Syria) and they are confident in the vindication of the King of the world (the Lord). I speak the first like a news anchor
and the second like a believer.
- I also hear two kinds of witness from the brothers. On
the one hand defiance and denunciation: What do you expect to achieve... You accursed
fiend. But I also hear bold confidence:
I hope to receive them again... It is my choice to die. These need two
- In this reading the Judean freedom fighters invoke the resurrection. In today’s Gospel Jesus defends the resurrection before the disbelieving Sadducees.
- He regarded his sufferings
as nothing. How do I say
it? Am I an onlooker, like the king and
his attendants who marveled? Or do I stand with the prisoners?
- The brothers are the central figures in the reading, and so
I will look on reality as they do. Everything is a gift of God, who will raise us up.
- Central point: God gives life and also gives hope of being raised up.
- Message for our assembly: Are we tied down by comfort? If an impartial observer looked for the “holy Maccabees” today, where
would she find them? Who is willing to
die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors? Some earnest eye contact
- I will challenge myself: To repeat the eagerness, the hope and the
indignant tone of these martyrs, whose death was celebrated in the early church.
II Thessalonians 2, 16 to 3, 5
- Everlasting encouragement and good hope. So the passage begins, and that is what I carry away from the first hearing. Since both of these come from God, let me reflect them warmly in my own reading.
- May God encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every
good deed and word. It is more than feeling that the apostle is looking for. He wants a motivation to speak and act for the benefit of others. So I will build toward that conclusion.
- Pray for us. Notice:
not Mary and the saints, and this is not because there were not yet saints in heaven to intercede! This is our duty as members of the Body, to support each other. It
is also our duty to seek out the support of others in prayer.
- Now it becomes a personal appeal, and I should say it as such: That
the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified. It should be perceived
as worthy of speeding forward, and that has a lot to do with my preparation and reverence.
- A final prayer: May the Lord direct your hearts – to
the love of God and to the endurance of Christ. I remember John’s words:
“He loved them to the end.”
- That we may be delivered.
The apostle probably means himself and his missionary companions, but I could stretch it to refer to all of us.
- We are confident of you that what we instruct you, you are
doing. So the church is carrying out the instructions. Let me make that clear to my church.
- Climax: The Lord is faithful.
- The message for our assembly: Our Lord Jesus Christ himself...
So begins the passage. Christ is near to us.
He is here; so we believe.
- I will challenge myself: To speak the prayer, the words of presence, as if I am seeing and touching Jesus right now.
Luke 20, 27-38
- Now Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem
and is replying to an objection by the teachers of the law. We hear it often,
always at this time of year when we remember our dearly departed family and friends.
- Those who deny that there is a resurrection. By the way, many still do. It is not so easy to affirm that
those who have gone before us are alive with God. We sense their absence much
more than their presence. I will take the present tenses seriously.
- Teacher, Moses wrote for us. The extreme example of the levirate law is arcane, but something about it bothers me. Whose wife will that woman be?
I hear an undertone of possession. With so many divorced and remarried
people today, it still goes on.
- Jesus said to them...
He does not even acknowledge the premise! They neither marry nor are given in marriage... and they are the children
of God. We are all of equal dignity as children. Mark has a stronger statement about this, adding a rebuke to the wisdom teaching.
- That the dead will rise - even Moses made known. In
God all are alive. So the Gospel is not just about a further extension of
marriage “beyond death” as Tony and Maria sang in West Side Story but
about the destiny of us all. Let me join my own voice to that of Jesus.
- Climax: He is not God of the dead but of the living. Careful with word order.
- Message for our assembly: Do we possess our loved ones for our selfish pleasure or to present them to God like angels?
- I will challenge myself: To declare Jesus’ affirmation of dignity for us all.
From Word to Eucharist: All
the readings call us to a higher life free from selfish concerns. Our bodies
are not our own, but a gift from God. Our life as church is a shared life, and
we are responsible for each other. Our spouses who accompany us to communion
are also children of God. Are we faithful stewards of these precious gifts?