2 Maccabee 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38
Paradise Ascent Of The Blessed by Hieronymus Bosch, 1500-04
In the Gospel, Jesus has entered Jerusalem and is teaching the people in the temple about the Good News. This scene becomes the stage for the leaders of the various religious parties within the Jewish tradition to try to make their position clear to the other groups and also discredit Jesus’ teachings. The Sadducees are such a faction. They hold strictly to the literal reading of the Torah themselves. This puts them in opposition to the Pharisees who gain their power from their own collective interpretation of the same teachings of Moses. Both groups question the authority of Jesus to teach such new things. They ask Jesus various trick questions such as to whom should the tax be paid, to the Roman government or, because of religious teachings, pay only the Temple Taxes. They would like to trap Jesus so as to hand him over for political judgment.
The Sadducees desire his removal and so they try to trap him by asking about life after death. They did not hold to this. A certain woman marries and buries seven brothers. Whose wife will she be in the after-life? A good test question and Jesus passes the exam by his own use of their scriptures. They are familiar with Moses’ being encountered by God at the Burning Bush. Jesus quotes the verse from that section of their scriptures which God is spoken of as being God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob. Certainly God is God of the living and not the dead. The Sadducees acknowledge that Jesus has spoken well.
When we were kids we played a game called “School” in which the one who was the teacher hid a pebble in one hand and presented both hands to those sitting in a line on the bottom step. The first “student” would exercise a choice and if the correct hand was slapped, that “student” could move up one step. If the wrong hand was guessed, that “student” stayed in First Grade. The first “student getting to the top of the stairs became the new “Teacher.” Our joys were simpler in those days.
Every day presents us with such tight-fisted options. We live towards rising up to heaven and life eternal. Often we make options that involve dying to ourselves that we might choose life eternal. Like the Seven Martyrs for their faith, we witness to a life-style now that indicates we would exercise our option by choosing the promised-life in the hidden hand of God. Each time we do choose for the life-after we are making a statement as did the Maccabees, as did the early martyrs, as did the Martyrs of El Salvador, and as does any one who follows Jesus up the stairs towards Jerusalem. We not only grieve those who have gone before us, but we grieve often the various calls we receive to witness to our belief in the life to come. Not all the steps towards eternal life are easy to climb.
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. In green pastures he gives me rest, he leads me beside waters of peace.” Ps. 23
By Larry Gillick