Believing in the Resurrection

In today’s first reading, which is the moving story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers, we see our own story as Christians in this age and time.

Nov 04, 2022

                                     Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Bro Simon Raj, SJ

In today’s first reading, which is the moving story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers, we see our own story as Christians in this age and time. Whether we like it or not, there is a fierce persecution ravaging the body of Christ today; a battle between sin and righteousness. Like these seven brothers, Christians today are forced, tortured and cajoled on every side to make choices which are clearly against their faith but as Jesus would advise: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28). The martyrs like Paul Miki and his 25 companions clearly understood this teaching and applied it faithfully in their life. They disregarded their own temporal interests to identify themselves with their crucified Saviour, confident they would rise with Him on the last day.

Paul encourages the Thessalonians and asks for their prayers
Paul was a man of prayer who believed that, although everything in life was subject to God’s divine will, eternal purpose, and sovereign permission, God also hears the intercessions of the saints and answers the prayers of His servants — causing all things to work together for our good and for His glory. And so in this section of Scripture, we discover Paul asking for prayer, while resting on the fact that God is the strength of our heart and our portion forever.

Paul was not only a man who requested ongoing prayer for himself, he also kept the saints of God in the various churches continuously in prayer. He knew that problems and persecutions were destined for all who live in Christ Jesus and so, in his prayerful pleadings for the Christians in Thessalonica he prays: “May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”
There is no better place for the believer to be than abiding in Christ, and no more secure situation that being covered by the unfailing and abundant love of God for His own, for when all else fails, God is enough — His grace is sufficient.

The Resurrected Life
Why do people ask questions which they actually do not even care about or they do not really care about finding the truth. Sometimes they are just hoping to prove their opinions to be right and unassailable. Still, others ask a question to prove that they are more intelligent and knowledgeable. They ask even though they already know the answer, and are just trying to make other people look dumb. Their intention is to put other people down and to humiliate them.

These are the kind of people we encounter in today’s Gospel in the persons of the Sadducees. Who were the Sadducees? The Sadducees are described in this Gospel as opponents to the belief in resurrection. In the dialogue presented here, we see an example of the means of disputation that was common in first century Judaism. The Sadducees use the example of Levirate marriage, found in the Law of Moses, to disprove belief in the resurrection. According to Deuteronomy 25:5-10, if a man died without producing an heir, the man's brother should marry his wife and the offspring of this union would inherit the property and carry on the name of the man who had died. The Sadducees use this as an example to challenge belief in the resurrection. They do not actually care about the answer. They are not there to seek the truth. They intend to trap Jesus that He may give in to their concept that there is no resurrection after our life here on earth.

Jesus argues from the same written Law of Moses to show that there is resurrection. Using the texts from the Book of Exodus (Chapter 3) that describe Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, Jesus shows that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. Here Jesus uses the same method and texts of the Sadducees to counter them. As the Gospel text suggests, He beat them at their own game!

More importantly, in this discourse, Jesus shows the limits of our imaginations when it comes to eternal life. The Sadducees argue against resurrection because of the limits of earthly existence. They do not imagine another possibility for existence and relationship with God.

Jesus proposes that the possibilities of resurrected life are beyond our imaginations. Jesus’ conclusion suggests something else as well: To spend time worrying about resurrected life is to miss the point. The point is that eternal relationship with God is possible, for God is the God of the living, “. . . for to Him all are alive.”

67-year-old Bro Simon Raj, SJ is currently based at the Jesuit Residence in Petaling Jaya where he serves as Sub-Minister of the House.

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