Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the continuation of the story from the Book of the Maccabees, this time about the end of the life of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who persecuted the Jewish faithful in his kingdom and caused the rise of the Maccabean Revolt. Then in the Gospel passage today we heard from the Gospel of St. Luke in which we heard the Lord’s encounter and exchanges with the Sadducees regarding the matter of the resurrection from the dead.
In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the Maccabees how King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the king of the Seleucid Greek Empire who was away campaigning in Persia, failed in his endeavours and not only that, he heard of the defeats inflicted to his forces in Judea and elsewhere due to the rise of the Jewish rebellion under Judas Maccabeus and his brothers who resisted the king’s efforts to impose Greek religion and customs among the Jews and others throughout his kingdom.
As we heard in yesterday’s readings, the forces of the faithful under the leadership of the Maccabees retook the holy Mount Zion and the Temple of God that was there, and reestablish the worship of the One True God there, overthrowing the idols that King Antiochus had installed there and broken down the old defiled Altar, rebuilding a new Altar worthy of Divine worship. Essentially, all that the king had done was to undermine his own power, control and authority over Judea and the lands where the Jews dwelled in, as they all rose in rebellion against Him.
The king died in regret, knowing that all that he had done were in vain, and God was punishing him for all of his sins, his pride, greed and megalomania. His lack of respect for the Lord and his actions had brought about all the calamities on him, and he would be held accountable for all of his actions, all the sufferings he had caused the people of God. And not long after that, he died in great agony, ending his rule as a king in this world, and entering into the afterlife. What is to become of King Antiochus, no one knows but God alone.
Now, linking to what we have heard in that passage with our Gospel passage today, we have something in common which is the matter of the afterlife. In the Gospel passage, we heard of the Lord Jesus and His encounter with the Sadducees, as they discussed about the matter of the resurrection from the dead and the afterlife. The Sadducees were one of the two very influential group back then in the Jewish community, which was made up of those who were powerful and rich, the aristocratic families and those with connections, and many of them were strongly influenced by Hellenism or Greek ways and customs.
As such, many among them did not believe in spiritual matters and did not believe in the afterlife or any resurrection from the dead. They preferred to enjoy life as they knew it there and then, and many likely enjoyed lavish parties and celebrations as were common at that time among the rich and powerful. When they asked the Lord about the resurrection, that was because the Lord always spoke of the world that is to come, and also for mankind to reject hedonistic ways that are incompatible with the way of God.
As they asked that, actually the Sadducees were showing that they feared what was to come after they die. While they did not believe in the resurrection, that also meant that they were afraid to part with all the things that they then currently enjoyed in life. They asked Him what would happen to a woman who married seven husbands and all of the husbands died, and who would be that woman’s husband in the afterlife because they were very concerned about worldly matters and things, and they do not want to lose what they were familiar with in the world, like their possessions, status, attachments and many other things.
This is where the Lord then reminded all of them and also all of us, that in the end, whatever we are in this world and whatever we possess, our status and all things are inconsequential in the world that is to come. All of us are mortals and will one day face death, and this is a certainty that all of us will endure, with the ultimate unknown being the time that this will happen to us. We will not bring our attachments and possessions in this world with us, and regardless whether we are beggars and poor, or rich and powerful kings like King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, all will die and face judgment for our actions and deeds in life.
The Lord revealed and reaffirmed that life after death is a reality, for our existence in this world is meant to be a temporary one. After passing through death, all those who are faithful to God and remained true to Him to the end will be judged worthy to share His glorious inheritance, to share in the beatific vision of the saints, whether immediately or through the fires of Purgatory. And in the end, it is immaterial what status or riches we have in this world, for all of us will be equal before God and equally beloved by Him without any prejudice and bias.
Now the question is, are we ready to welcome Him fully and enter into His kingdom should He call us back to Him at this very moment? Today’s readings serve as a reminder for our own fragile mortal existence, and we should remember that no matter how great we are in this world, we are still all the same before God, and we will have to answer Him for every single one of our actions and deeds. Will these be found worthy or wanting by the Lord? Will God find true and living faith in us, or will He instead find hypocrisy and lukewarmness in faith?
Let us all ponder these questions and discern carefully our path moving forward in life, so that we may know how to proceed and to dedicate ourselves from now on, that we may be worthy before the Lord. May God bless us all and remain with us, and may He guide us in our journey of faith through life. May God keep us in His love always, now and forevermore. Amen.