Liturgical Colour : Green
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday all of us are called to remember the faith which we have in the Lord, in His love for us and in His guidance, love and compassion for each one for us, and ultimately, His glorious resurrection from the dead and triumph over sin and death, which is also promised to us. Through His own Resurrection from the dead, the Lord showed all of us that His path leads us to an eternity of life and existence with Him. That is what all of us as Christians believe and ought to have faith wholeheartedly in, as the Resurrection of the Lord is truly the most important and central tenet of our entire Christian faith. Without the Resurrection, then there will be no Christianity and the truth which we hold firm in belief in the Lord.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Second Book of Maccabees the tale of what happened during the intense persecution of the faithful people of God during the time of the Seleucid King Antiochus IV Epiphanes who commanded that all the people throughout his kingdom ought to abandon the customs of their ancestors and adapt the Greek ways and ideologies, their gods and idols. This led to intense persecution of the Jewish people who remained faithful to the Lord their God, the one true and only God. As we heard in the first reading passage, the whole entire family consisting of a mother and her seven sons were forced to abandon their faith in God and to commit sin against Him before the king himself, but each one of them courageously resisted the king’s efforts and chose to face suffering and death instead of disobeying the Lord.
The king offered them great riches and affluence, safety and good prospects should they decide to abandon the Lord and embrace the pagan faith of the king and the Greeks. That path would have been very tempting indeed, as the other path would lead to certain painful suffering and death. From the perspective of one who seek only to treasure what they have in the world and do not believe in the resurrection, to choose otherwise would have been folly, as that would have gained them nothing but the destruction of their lives and the end of their existence in a most humiliating and painful way no less. But that was because those people had no faith or trust in God. For those who trust in the Lord and believe in His Resurrection, the life and existence after death is even more important than this earthly life.
Earlier in the previous week, in one of the weekday readings from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians, we have all been reminded by the Apostle that our ‘true’ citizenship is in Heaven, and that we should eagerly await the coming of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. St. Paul therefore reminded all of us that our earthly existence, as good or as bad as they may be, are merely temporary, and in the end, what comes after is truly what matters. We have just celebrated Allhallowtide earlier in the last week, in which we rejoice in the glory of all the saints, the holy men and women of God who have merited the glory of Heaven on All Saints’ Day, and also the holy souls in purgatory, the souls of all the faithful departed from this world, our beloved ones and countless others, on All Souls’ Day. On those days we remember those who have gone from this world to the afterlife.
In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of the Lord during His encounter and argument with the Sadducees, who opposed Him and questioned Him regarding the belief in the resurrection from the dead. For context, the Sadducees were one of the two very influential and powerful groups within the Jewish community, the other being the Pharisees. While the Pharisees were the intellectuals and those who were very particular in maintaining the strict observance of the Law of Moses, and was very deep into Jewish culture, customs and beliefs, in the spiritual belief in the resurrection from the dead and in Angels, the Sadducees stood at the other end of the spectrum, as they did not believe in resurrection from the dead, Angels or any other spiritual beings or matters.
The Sadducees were influential group of people composed of elders and all those who were likely very much secularised and back then, Hellenised, and influenced by philosophical thinking and ideas of the Greco-Roman world at that time. They likely saw the world as one that is purely material and they saw their existence in this world as the sole existence they had, and hence, nothing spiritual or whatever cannot be explained by the senses, or any belief in the life after death. The Sadducees made a reference to the case when according to the Law, when a woman’s husband died and they had no child, then one of the deceased husband’s brother by Law was compelled to take the widow as his own wife, and the first child born of that union was considered as the deceased man’s child.
Therefore the Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection from the dead presented their case before the Lord, questioning Him of what would happen then in the case when all seven brothers passed away before they had any children with the woman, and whose husband the wife would be in the afterlife, she was legally married to all the seven brothers. It was then that the Lord rebuked the Sadducees for their narrow-minded attitude and lack of faith in God, and for their stubborn refusal to believe in the resurrection from the dead. The Lord told them that the way that they thought was essentially very worldly in nature, that they thought only of worldly matters like properties, inheritance, relationships and other things, which led them to question their faith and the truth about the resurrection in the first place.
Essentially, unless one understands our true nature and purpose in this world, then we are likely bound to fall into the temptations of worldly pleasures and desires. And if we understand and realise just how strong those temptations can be, then we will be more vigilant in resisting the allure of those temptations and evils. The Sadducees were too attached to their worldly desires, ambitions and ego, that they could not detach themselves from those things, and they could not even imagine what life would be without all those things. Hence, they doubted the Lord and refused to believe in Him, even though He has shown them His wisdom and truth, His power and wonders, through the many miracles that He has performed before all of the people, including the Sadducees themselves.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, our existence in this world is to glorify God and to serve Him. We wander in this world precisely because of our disobedience against God as we would remember from the beginning of the Book of Genesis. But that is not something that is permanent, as our separation from God is due to sin, and God Who loves each and every one of us very dearly, has promised, reached out to us and extended to us His salvation through none other than Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God, Our Lord and Saviour. All these He had done for us so that we may not perish and be lost to Him forever, and that we can be reconciled with Him, once and for all, and be reunited with Him, to enjoy finally what He has always intended for us, to be the partakers in the most generous love and graceful blessings, in the everlasting life with Him.
That was why the Lord sent to us His only Begotten Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Who endured the most painful sufferings, the most humiliating treatment and the worst of rejections and curses from the very ones He had come to save, so that through whatever He had experienced, He may save us all from everlasting death and damnation. He willingly bore upon Himself the burdens and punishments due to our sins, and He endured those pain and bitterness all because He loves us. And by His suffering and death, we are healed, and by offering Himself as the most worthy sacrifice and offering in atonement for our sins, Christ as our Eternal High Priest has opened for us the gates of Heaven and everlasting life. He has conquered sin and death, and then by His glorious Resurrection afterwards, He proved to us all, to all those who doubted Him, that there is indeed life and existence after death.
By His gift to us of His own Most Precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist, as we all partake in this Most Holy Communion, we have become parts of His own Body, the Church of God. And thus, we have also become sharers in His Passion, suffering and death. And through that, we have been made to pass through the gates of life and death, and just as the Lord Himself has risen gloriously from the dead, hence, we all too, shall rise with Him, on the last day. This is what we solemnly believe as Christians, as one of the core tenets of our faith. Sin has lead us into separation from God and death as our just punishment, but this is not permanent and everlasting, thanks to God Who has reached out to us and showed us His love. Of course, unfortunately, there are those who reject the Lord’s generous offer of mercy and love, to the very end. It is all these people who will face condemnation and an eternity of suffering in the end.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday’s Scripture readings and discourse serve as reminders for us, on whether we have truly appreciated and understood our faith as we should have. How many of us truly believe in the resurrection ourselves? How many of us truly appreciate how important the Lord’s suffering, death and resurrection are to us? And we must not forget that although we may think that we believe in the resurrection, but our actions and deeds, our way of life may speak otherwise. What am I referring to? I am referring to the fact that many among us Christians spent a lot of time and effort, a lot of attention in trying to garner and preserve for ourselves worldly goods and things, spending a lot of effort and time in building up for ourselves a worldly treasure and wealth.
How many of us spent a lot of effort in trying to make ourselves look young, handsome or beautiful, or trying to make ourselves look better and more acceptable by the world? Many of us are often worried of aging and other things, and spent a lot of attention on these. And in doing so, we often neglect our responsibilities as Christians, especially those with regards to our care and love for one another. Some of us even hurt others, manipulate and exploit others just because we want to gain more for ourselves, and all these led to our selfish actions that are unbecoming of us as Christians, as those who profess to believe in God. The Lord has taught us and shown us how we should act and behave, and if we continue to do what we have done, how can we then call ourselves as true and genuine Christians?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore commit ourselves anew to the Lord, that from now on, we should dedicate our effort and time to serve Him better, to live our lives more worthily, and trust in Him more, knowing that in Him alone lies our hope and the path to eternal joy and bliss. We have to grow more in our faith and trust in Him, so that we may put Him in the centre of our lives and existence. Let us all no longer be distracted by the many things that often keep us away from God’s love and grace. And may the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, that our faith and belief in Him will ever be stronger, and that we will be worthy of Him, and be reconciled and reunited with Him, in the glory of everlasting life. Amen.