What happens to us at the end of our earthly life’s journey?
Thirty Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:6-3:5; Luke 20: 27-38
The readings today remind us that the end of the liturgical year is coming soon. The Sunday after Thanksgiving starts our Advent season, and the previous Sunday celebrates the feast of Christ the King. Yet there is more to the readings than just the end of a liturgical season. The readings address the ultimate question of what happens to us when we die. Is there a heaven? Is there a heel? Is there even a purgatory? What will I be when my earthly body stops working.
The answer to these questions are in the three readings. The first reading reminds us of how powerful a personal relationship with the Divine can be. The brothers who were challenged to eat pork, which is against their belief in the Divine each in their way was tortured and killed for what they believed. The brothers refused to cut corners in their faith. They did not care how other people saw them; they continued to believe when others perhaps ate pork and little by little did things that brought them away for the center of the Divine in their life. They the brothers who died for what they believed in would not give up.
The brothers in the first reading refute what has become common in our society, and that is cheating or cutting corners. When we take the apparent easy way so often, we find that it is more difficult than the original way put to us. When we cheat, let us say on a diet, we become heavier and heavier. We convince ourselves that having a little of this or that won't hurt until we can no longer fit in our clothes. The same goes true for addiction. When the person who gets sober after a while of feeling good convinces themselves that they can have a small sip or taste or hit of whatever their drug of choice is, they begin a spiral downfall back into the throws of addiction as if they never got sober. Cheating or cutting corners does not fit with our human makeup. We either delve in and experience whatever it is painful, or we lose the opportunity to learn something about life and ourselves. So it is with our relationship with the Divine. We are either committed to developing and nurturing our relationship with the Divine or we are not or we remain on the surface.
Our second reading speaks about hope amid suffering. After the death of Christ, the early followers of Christ expected him to come back right away. The early Church felt that the second coming of Christ was imminent, which is why we know Paul wrote very stringent letters at times to people to remain celibate and alert not to do this or that. Eventually, the Church began to realize that Christ was not coming back but that the Spirit in us was the second coming of Christ. We are called to bring about the kingdom in our faith and works of charity. The revelation of this baptismal promise speaks volumes to the fears of the afterlife. What is the afterlife or death was a continuation of how we live our life now.? Would we be happy or would we need to clean up our act? The concept of life after death or heaven being here and then fulfilled in death calls us to develop that relationship that the brothers in the first reading had with their Divine. They were not caught up in the material things of their world so they could feel good thinking that death was the end, no they knew from their relationship with the Lord that death was not the end but a new path which is why they allowed themselves to be put to death. Death is the fulfillment of how we live here on earth.
Jesus who is being trapped by the Sadducees, turns the argument around. The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection, so the death of the women and the brothers not having a child was a horrific thing. Jesus, who is more inclined to believe like a Pharisee, reminds the Sadducees that in one of their books of the Torah, Moses claims God to be the God of Issac, Jacob, and Abraham and the God of the living. Hence God only communicates with those who are living and Jacob, Isaac and Abraham were long dead before Moses. Jesus reminds us that our life here does matter. He came to show us and promise us a new life here and in death, which is rooted in a relationship with the Divine and how we act now. If our relationship with the Divine does not call us to change our selfish ways, then we believe in an illusion.
The God Jesus calls us to is one of the living here and now and after death. This God calls us to be present and interconnected to each other and God. Our interconnectedness and loving acts toward each other will bring about the kingdom of God for that kingdom is rooted in unconditional love and mercy. If our lives are not loving now and if we are not connected to others or God, then that is how we will live our lives in the afterlife. Now is the time to change how we live and treat others.
As we in a few weeks close yet another liturgical season and enter into Advent, let us use Advent as a time not only to decorate and shop for those we love but to deepen our relationship with the Divine who calls us to joy, peace, hope, and healing. Advent should be a time which we use to prepare our minds and hearts for a renewed Spirit and birth of the Divine in our lives.
Let us pray as we prepare for the holiday season not to block or forget about the Divine but to invite the Divine to our Thanksgiving table and into the hustle and bustle of the season. Let us spend time with the Divine in prayer as we will spend time with those we love and care about. Our Divine is not a pretend invisible friend; no, our Divine is living and real within our hearts and minds if we are open.