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Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

What happens after we die? Most religions and philosophies provide some notion of this, but we are confounded by the mystery of it all. Today’s readings give us a glimpse through the faith of martyrs and in the words of Jesus. In the Old Testament reading, the Maccabee brothers assert with total confidence that the God who gave them life would also raise them to eternal life. This was not universally accepted in ancient Israel. The Sadducees, who denied any resurrection of the dead, try to trap Jesus with a hypothetical riddle. Jesus, known for turning such things around, dismisses their unbelief, noting that even Moses knew that all are alive in God. Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians that we live in everlasting encouragement and hope, and Psalm 17 echoes this with words of faith that we will see God’s face, waking in God’s loving presence.

Who wants to live forever?

In November, with All Hallows at the beginning of the month, our thoughts and prayers turn to those saints and souls who have gone before us. Gone where, though? Truth is, we don’t know. Scripture makes many statements about life after death, but all notions of the afterlife require faith and hope. Today’s Gospel from Luke has Jesus speaking comforting words about life after death—the righteous becoming children of God, like angels.

The hero-martyrs of our Old Testament reading about the Maccabees provide early examples of faith in the resurrection of the dead. They hold steadfast in their faith, being willing to die rather than violate their God’s law. Their frighteningly brutal story of hope might seem foolish to some, but we are all well aware of modern-day examples of men and women who have suffered rather than betray their beliefs.

We can only imagine

In the days of Jesus, belief in the resurrection of the dead had not achieved universal acceptance. In fact, the Sadducees in today’s Gospel were staunch resurrection deniers and tried to trick Jesus. Turning the tables, Jesus states that Moses in the distant past believed that the God of our ancestors in faith is truly God of the living, and that all are alive to God, whether still living or dead. Death is just a phase, a doorway, maybe a tesseract. We really don’t know. Jesus reassures us that those are unnecessary concerns for the faithful, just as the specifics of worldly life will no longer be relevant. Not only will our earthly bodies be changed, but all that we knew from mortal existence—all marriage, all family, all relationships—will be transformed in ways we can’t possibly imagine. All that we have will be ours again. So we should stop worrying and live so as to be worthy of whatever comes next, for when we are embraced in the eternal love-feast of glorified existence with God, our joy will indeed be full.


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