We are rapidly working our way through the last few weeks of our Liturgical Year and soon the season of Advent will be upon us (as well as a new Liturgical year). Reflecting this sense of endings and beginnings, our Sunday readings for this weekend and also for the next, focus on the end of time and our hope in the resurrection. The readings are an invitation to think about the words we say each Sunday at the end of the Creed: “… and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” 

Our First Reading comes from the Second Book of Maccabees (2 Macc. 7: 1-2, 9-14). This book of the Old Testament is very much an historical book, narrating the trials and tribulations of the Jews under the harsh regime of a foreign power in the second century B.C. Our passage today recounts the cruel and harsh treatment of those who remained faithful to the Jewish Law and Covenant. We must certainly marvel at their constancy and bravery, just as we can do when we read the accounts of the many Christian martyrs. However, we are given this excerpt for a further purpose. The fidelity of the seven brothers also reflects their belief in the life to come: faithfulness to God now will be translated into a new life and resurrection once they die. As Christians, we can remember the words of a 20th century theologian in his book on “The Theology of Death.” He wrote quite simply: “Our future begins now.” 

Continuing this theme, many Christian writers have interpreted our psalm (Psalm 17) as a prayer about new life and resurrection and of how we prepare for this here and now. The psalm sings of how the Lord will be faithful and close to us now, especially in our trials and tribulations. We must walk along the right path, so as to be ready for the coming of the Lord. Then the psalm perhaps speaks of the future as it goes on to say “in justice I shall behold your face; on waking I shall be content in your presence.” 

As we noted last week, the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians was written to encourage the new Church in that city at a time of persecution and great difficulty. St. Paul exhorts and encourages those early Christians to be ready for the coming of the Lord. How should this be done? It is by continuing to do all the usual daily things, but doing them with a faith-filled focus, rather than just giving up or sitting around waiting for the Lord. 

Our Gospel (Luke 20: 27-38) provides us with a clear teaching from Jesus about the resurrection. We know that the two groups mentioned, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, had very different views about what happens when our life’s journey comes to its end. The Pharisees believed in some form of resurrection, whereas the Sadducees saw this belief as some new and false addition to the Jewish faith. The Sadducees try to make the belief look foolish by their unlikely and contrived example of the seven brothers.  

Jesus replies by teaching us at least two things about the resurrection. The first is that it is a fact. He speaks of the “… coming age and to the resurrection of the dead.” The second is how we shall be in this resurrection. This is something that fascinates and intrigues us. Indeed, there have been many books on what heaven is like and a number of accounts of people who believe that they have had an experience of heaven. It is also worth noting that an important part of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body is also based on this passage of Scripture as he discusses our human nature and our human destiny. Our Lord then makes a wonderful and encouraging statement that God is “God not of the dead but of the living, for to Him all are alive.” 

Our readings (and the whole month of November) therefore invite us to renew our faith in the resurrection and the life to come. This is not something we may think about very often, but it is at the heart of our faith and our Christian life. After all, we prepare here and now for the life to come. We have that saying “I would not be caught dead doing that, or being there.” The question is what would we be caught alive doing? How are we preparing for the life to come?