The end is near! That is the end of the Liturgical Year. In a few weeks, we will celebrate the feast of Christ the King of the Universe, the finale of the Year of Grace 2021! This week’s readings point us to our own end, our death and the promise of life beyond. Do I really believe and “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” as we profess in the creed every week?

Our readings this week are very challenging. In the First Reading, the faithful witnesses of the resurrection of the dead are the brave mother and her seven sons. Torture and obscene cruelty could not move them to defile the law. They all held fast to the “hope that God gives of being raised up by him …” This was a daunting challenge at this time in Jewish history about 167 BCE. The Jewish people were being mercilessly persecuted by the Greek king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. How would God rescue his people from this persecution that attempted to wipe out Jewish faith, language and customs? The Maccabees finally throw off Greek rule, but the struggle of living faithfully in the midst of suffering and persecution is not resolved only by sword and spear, but by a development of Jewish understanding of God’s justice and presence with the people. The author of second Maccabees shares inspired insights into the suffering of the innocent: there will be a final reckoning and the faithful ones will live on in the presence of God. Do we find that consoling amidst our own pain and struggles? The world is pressed on every side with war, climate disasters and violence. Our lives are bombarded with sickness and anxiety for our loved ones. It’s very difficult to console ourselves with the belief that all will be well in the end. Will it really?

In the Gospel, Jesus faces fierce opposition from the Sadducees who don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead. They accept only the written Torah, where they find no proof of resurrection. The story they hurl at Jesus is rooted in Deuteronomy 25:5-10: the responsibility to ensure the continuity of the family. But they twist it to disprove the possibility of resurrection.

Jesus undoes their theory by quoting the Torah in the story of the burning bush, where God, using the present tense, identifies as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — “not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Is this merely a theological dispute? No, Jesus is sharing the hope of resurrection for his people who are beaten down by Roman occupation and the travails of life. Life will not end in an unjust mess. Life is too precious for that. There will be final vindication in the resurrection. Jesus’ own life, death and resurrection proves this!

So does this just leave us with what we have been taught for too long — to endure, to trudge along accepting suffering and hardship because all will be better when we die? Jesus calls us to life — not just at the end of our days but NOW — and in every moment. Jesus has promised: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Every moment of every day is an opportunity to live in his love and to share that love with others. We are called to engage with the suffering of our world, of our community, family and our own selves by healing what we can, by doing what is ours to do. We are called to revel in life, to enjoy the bliss of being human, to wonder at the gifts of creation! We are assured that this incredible gift of life is so precious that it will continue forever in the arms of our loving God, in the company of all those we have known and loved. God’s glory appears all around us, every day in all circumstances our call is to be filled with joy now and forever!