posted Nov 11, 2013, 5:01 PM by Garry Cope   [ updated Nov 15, 2013, 8:00 AM ]
2Macc. 7:1-2, 9-14;; Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15;; 2Thess. 2:16-3:5;; Luke 20:27-38
“If Christ is preached as risen from the dead, how can...you say that there is no resurrection of the dead...If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is empty and our faith is in vain” (1Cor.15: 12-19).
This Monday, November 11, is Veteran’s Day! It is an official United States federal holiday set aside to honor the men and women who have served in the armed services. The day coincides with other holidays such as Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world and also mark the anniversary of the end of World War I. In a 1995 survey by the National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, 90% of Americans said they were patriotic and would prefer America to any other country. Most would be willing to die for the country. Many would take up arms if need be to defend the country. Why would someone be willing to die for a country? Why would someone be willing to die in the name of religion? Why would a person be willing to kill and be killed for some ideologies? What motivates a person of faith to prefer to die rather than compromise his or her faith and beliefs?
The context of today’s first reading from the second Book of Maccabees is a story of a people for whom the preservation of their faith was more valuable than the prolongation of life itself. They were willing to die rather than betray their faith. Around 167 B.C., King Antochius IV Epiphanes, who controlled Palestine, issued a decree to his whole kingdom and introduced foreign gods into the Temple and tried to stamp out ancient Jewish customs using every brutal means, including torture and killing. The people found themselves alone and vulnerable against their oppressors. They relied on God to help them. Prior to the encounter in today’s reading, Mattathias, a priest, son of Simon, had vowed: “Even if all the nations...should abandon the religion of their ancestors and submit to the order of King Antiochus, I, my sons and my family will remain faithful to the Covenant of our ancestors. May God preserve us from abandoning the Law and its precepts. We will not obey the orders of the king nor turn aside from our religion...” (1Macc. 2: 19-22). Following the example of Mattathias, one of the seven brothers, while being tortured and asked to renounce his religion, said: ““What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors...you are depriving us of present life, but the King of the world (God) will raise us up to live again forever.”
Clearly, the story demonstrates the seven brothers’ belief in life after death. What motivates people to join the military and to answer a call to go to war – to fight for what they believe in – to defend what they love – to be ready to sacrifice their lives in order to protect their country’s interests? As Christians, we believe in the resurrection of the body and life hereafter. But we must guard against the infusion of our human limitations into our belief in the resurrection of the dead. What motivates a Christian to suffer and die for his/her faith cannot and must not center around the belief that we are going to prolong the life we live here on earth. Christian’s concept of the life hereafter is a life that is transformed. It is a new life in Christ. In today’s gospel, our Lord Jesus, through His encounter with the Sadducees, reminds us that a new life at the resurrection of the dead, is a life in its fullness. It is a life without limitations – no marriages – no sickness – no pains; and of course, no more death! For a true believer, life after death is a life of hope – a life of happiness that is beyond our imagination. Christians are willing to suffer and to die for their faith because they have hope and they truly believe that “God will raise them up to live again forever.” Would you be willing to suffer and die for your Catholic faith?
Rev. Anthony Ita Bassey, MSP