Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday as we get closer to the end of the current liturgical year, we heard about the readings focusing on the theme of the resurrection into new life, as we began today with the first reading from the Second Book of the Maccabees on seven brothers and their mother who were persecuted by the Seleucid Greeks under king Antiochus and then in the Gospel we heard of the encounter and exchange between the Lord Jesus and a group of Sadducees.
Let us all first understand the context of the readings today, in which we heard of the persecution of the faithful Jews by the Seleucid king Antiochus who wanted to impose Greek customs and religious traditions on the whole of his Empire. At that time, the tyranny and heavy-handedness of the king made many of the population to rise up in revolt, led by the priest Mattathias and his family, who would be known as the Maccabeans.
As we can see, the persecution of the Jews who remained faithful to the laws and commandments of God was truly terrible, as exemplified by the persecution of the seven brothers and their mother. They were tortured, made to suffer and then executed one by one, beginning from the eldest son to the youngest son because they all refused to abandon their faith in God and embrace the king’s order to embrace the pagan Greek practices.
All of them defended their faith and stood by their dedication to God without hesitation, right up to the last and the youngest son who was persuaded by the king to abandon his faith for the sake of being considered the friend of the king and receiving many worldly privileges of power, wealth and glory that were abounding through the king and his influence. But none of those were able to move the heart of the youngest son who remained even more adamant on his faith.
We can see very clearly how courageous all of them, the seven sons and their mother in their readiness to face bitter suffering and painful death in the defence of their faith. They would not have had such courage when faced with all the forces of the world levelled against them, had they not have faith in God and in His promises of an everlasting of true joy, happiness and wonders in Him despite all the trials and challenges that they had to face in life.
They turned away from the comforts and the false happiness of the world, and chose to focus on the Lord and follow the path He has shown them. Their perseverance and their enduring faith in the Lord’s providence and the Covenant which He had made with them allowed them to endure all the terrible persecutions and trials. They sought the promise of the world that is to come and not put their focus on the happiness in the world that they were in at present.
And this is where our story from the first reading is connected and is parallel to the story from our Gospel today, as the Sadducees confronted the Lord and asked Him regarding the resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees were a powerful group at the time of the Lord Jesus, as one of the two main influence groups alongside the Pharisees. Unlike the Pharisees who were concerned and focused on the matters of spirituality, religion and the Law to a great excess, the Sadducees were their polar opposites.
The Sadducees were kind of the secular and worldly party of the Jewish people, all those who were influential and powerful in the community and with ties to the government, with probably many of them also belonging to the supporters of king Herod and his descendants, the rulers of Judea and Galilee. The Sadducees were those who looked at the world in a secular and non-religious manner, in opposition to the Pharisees and also to Jesus and His disciples, as the Lord spoke often in favour of leaving behind material goods of the world in the seeking of the divine.
The Sadducees used a story to test the Lord with regards to the matter of the resurrection because they did not believe in either the resurrection or the afterlife. They neither believed in the Angels or in any spiritual matters, as they were focused on purely materialistic and worldly matters in their sight and understanding of the world. They wanted to test and even discredit the Lord using the story of a woman who had seven husbands and asking Him whose wife she was in the afterlife.
Understanding the context of the Jewish law, if a man who was married to a woman died without having a child, one of his brothers had to take the woman to be his own wife, and a son born of the union between the deceased man’s brother and his wife would be legally considered as the son of the deceased for the matter of inheritance and preserving the deceased man’s memory and legacy. It was this part of the Law which the Sadducees made use of in trying to test the Lord.
But the Lord chided and rebuked the Sadducees for failing to understand the Law properly and for their worldly view and perspective of things by which they focused on such trivialities and misunderstood what the most important things in life are. When they asked the Lord whose wife the woman was among all the seven brothers who all married her, they failed to understand that marriage is not about something human only but even more importantly is a union blessed by the divine in imitation of God’s love.
In the case of the Sadducees, they thought of the woman being a wife as a commodity and possession, in the manner that was common in the world at that time. During that time, the status of women in the society was quite low, and they were often considered as the possessions of their family, parents or husbands. In that context, the Sadducees took am understanding of matter with a purely worldly mentality and sentiment, worrying more about who the woman would belong to rather than the matter of the resurrection itself.
And why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because the Sadducees were too afraid to leave the life as they knew it. They were too attached to the world that they refused to think of what would come after the end of their earthly existence. That was why they focused on living their lives at the moment to the fullest, seeking worldly pleasures and satisfactions, and in doing so, they ended up falling into the temptations that brought them further and further away from God.
Essentially, what we heard about the seven brothers in our first reading today is contrary to what we have heard from the attitudes of the Sadducees. The seven brothers put their faith in God first and foremost before anything else, willing to suffer and even die for the sake of defending their faith and in remaining committed to Him. They would not betray their faith and their God for the sake of worldly happiness and status. On the other hand, the Sadducees acted and believed in a manner diametrically opposite, as they focused on the world and perhaps had no God in their heart at all.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of these then come to us, as we all can follow the path that either of these two groups of people showed us. God has given us the freedom to choose the path of our lives, and so, do we want to follow the path of the Sadducees, focusing on the world, enjoying everything and forgetting about God, just as what the Greek king tried to persuade the seven brothers to do, or do we want to be faithful like the seven brothers in the Book of Maccabees?
And as we can already see from what those seven brothers endured and suffered from, to be true disciples and followers of the Lord, as our Lord Himself said, we must be ready to carry our crosses in life with Him, to suffer with Him and from time to time, to be ridiculed, mocked, humiliated, rejected and even persecuted for what we believe. That is part of the commitment that we ought to have as those who truly believe in God and want to walk in His ways.
Let us all therefore truly be faithful to God at all times and in everything we say and do in our lives. Let us all draw ever closer to Him and let us all dedicate ourselves with ever greater zeal and love for God, through every actions and efforts we take in this life we have in this world. Let us all be courageous in loving God, and resist the many temptations of false pleasures and joys of this world so that our lives may truly be Christian-like and inspirational that through us and our good examples of faith may bring ever more souls to redemption and salvation in God.
May the Lord inflame in us the strong and living flame of passion and love for Him and His ways, that we may truly desire to seek our true treasure and inheritance in God, and not ended up being distracted by the many comforts in life that may seem to be satisfactory and pleasurable, and yet does not last forever. May God guide us all to Him, and embrace us all with the fullness of His love. Amen.