We are gradually coming to the end of both the calendar and liturgical years, and the readings of this thirty-second Sunday fittingly invite us to meditate on the last things: death, judgment, hell and heaven. As Catholics, we believe in the resurrection of the dead. Just few days ago, we had the commemoration of all the faithful departed; a day in which we pray for our departed brothers and sisters. It is also our firm faith in a life beyond death that made the Church to dedicate the whole month of November to praying for the faithful departed. We believe that death is only but a transformation of life.
But not all Jews at the time of Jesus believed in a life beyond death. The Sadducees for instance doubted the veracity of resurrection and in today’s gospel reading, they approached Jesus in an attempt to ridicule his faith in the resurrection of the dead and in the fullness of life after death. They presented a scenario which they believed made a mockery of the notion of life beyond death and proved resurrection to be a mere fiction: a woman who had seven husbands in this life, which of the seven will be her husband in the next life? (Luke 20:28-33) This question shows that the Sadducees had a very wrong understanding of resurrection. They thought that the life beyond death will simply be a continuation of the present life as we know it. Jesus’ response shows that there is a radical and qualitative difference between our present life and our life of union with God in heaven. The future life will be absolutely new, compared to this life.
The moment we come to the realization that death is not the end but the beginning of everlasting joy, life and communion with the One we love, then, our hope will drive out fear about death. This conviction will make us long for death. It will make us long to be with Christ in a world where there is no suffering, no pain, no loss (Rev. 21:4). This is exactly what we find in the first reading of today with the story of the martyrdom of the seven sons and their mother (2 Maccabees 7:1-41). They freely and heroically accepted to die in such a cruel manner simply because of their hope and conviction in the life that lies beyond death. There was something driving them. Like Jesus, they laid down their life in order to take it up again in heaven (John 9:10). As we read in the gospel, Jesus reveals God to be a God of the living, a God who brings surprising new life out of death. Because we believe in a life-giving God, our faith is always a hope-filled faith, even in the face of death.
Lastly, our faith in the resurrection of the dead should influence and shape the way we live our life. We should live as those who hope for an eternal reward and inheritance. We are pilgrims on a journey to the kingdom of God. As such, our hope for eternal life should spur us to live good Christian lives, to be true witnesses to the faith we have received, and to strive not to betray our faith even in the face of trials and persecutions.