For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111019.cfm
In our Gospel this Sunday the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, posed a question to Jesus that presumed there would be a resurrection. Not only was their question insincere, but also it was rather implausible. As background to their question, though, it is important to remember that for many Jewish people there was/is no clear belief in an afterlife. Rather, it was their belief that you lived on through your descendants. Given this, having children was very important. In fact, having children was so important that if a woman’s husband died without offspring, it was the responsibility of the next unattached male from the husband’s family to marry the widow and try to have children. Knowing this, the Sadducees invented a story about a woman who married seven brothers, each of whom died without producing any children. When the woman died, the Sadducees wanted to know “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus’ response to this question was masterful. He implied that the Sadducees’ question was completely irrelevant because: “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.”
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the second Book of Maccabees. This is the only time during our three year cycle of readings that we read from this book. It tells the story of seven brothers who died rather than “eat pork in violation of God’s law.” The reason they were willing to die was because of their belief in an afterlife: “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.”
For our second reading this Sunday we continue to read from the second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. In it Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to continue to live a life of faith. “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.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- What causes or helps you to believe in an afterlife?
- How would you describe the resurrection to someone who didn’t believe in an afterlife?
- What causes you to live a Christian life? Is it hope of heaven or fear of hell?