Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
It came to pass that seven brohters with their mother were arrested
and compelled by the king against the law to taste swine's flesh, and were
tormented with scourges and whips. But one of them who spoke first
said, "What do you expect to learn by questioning us? We are ready
to die, rather than to transgress the laws of our fathers."
And when he was at the point of death, he said, "You are as fury
taking us out of this present life, but the King of the world will raise
us up, who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life."
After him, the third was made a mocking stock; and when he was required,
he put out his tongue, and bravely, holding forth his hands said courageously,
"These I had from heaven; and for his laws I despise them; and from him
I hope to receive them again." Even the king, and they that
were with him, marvelled at the young man's courage, for he regarded his
pain an nothing.
Now when this man was dead also, they tormented and mangled the fourth
in like manner. When he was ready to die, he said, "It is good, being
put to death by men, to look for hope from God to be raised up again by
him; but as for you, there will be no resurrection to life."
2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us
and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts
and establish them in every good work and word.
Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, that the word of the
Lord may run and be glorified, even as also it is with you; and that we
may be delivered from unreasonable
and evil men; for all have not faith.
But the Lord is faithful, he will strengthen you, and guard you from
the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that
you are doing and will do the things which we command. And may the Lord
direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patience of Christ.
And there came to him some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection;
and they asked him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote unto us, that if a man's
brother die, having a wife, and he be childless, his brother should take
the wife, and raise up descendants for his brother. There were seven
brothers; and the first took a wife, but died childless; and the second;
and the third took her; and likewise all seven also died and left no children.
Afterward the woman also died. At the resurrection, whose wife will
she be? For all seven had her as wife."
Jesus said to them, "The sons of this world marry, and are given
in marriage; but they that are accounted worthy to attain to the coming
age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in
marriage. They can no longer die, for they are equal unto the angels;
and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the
dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the place concerning the Bush, when
he call out to the Lord, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and
the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive."
longtime national and international activist in the peace movement, Bishop
Gumbleton is a founding member of Pax Christi USA and an outspoken critic
of the sanctions againsst Iraq.
has appeared on numerous radio and television programs, and has published
numerous articles and reports.
** Scripture texts in this
work are in modified form from the American Standard Version of the Bible
and are available as part of the public domain.
For your convenience, the
Scripture texts, as they appear in the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the
Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright ©
1998, 1997, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.,
may be found at the website of the United States Conference of Catholic
|On this second Sunday in the month of November,
as we keep in mind in a very special way our family members and friends
who have gone before us into everlasting life, especially those of our
parish family who have died during the past year, and today which is also
November 11, the second month to the day from that terrible dying that
took place in New York City, it is important for us to hear some words
of comfort and to be reassured through the scriptures of the resurrection
and life with God forever in heaven.
Saint Paulís words in the first lesson can
be very comforting to us. They remind us that Jesus has loved us and that
God, who in mercy gives us everlasting comfort and true hope, will continue
to strengthen us, encourage our hearts and make us steadfast in constant
faith and trust.
The first lesson too is a lesson where we are
reminded of people dying, being killed in a most terrible way. As
you read the seventh chapter of the Book of Maccabees, you discover the
kind of atrocity and hatred that seems almost incredible, although it still
goes on in our world regularly. But in that passage, and also in
the Gospel lesson, we are reminded that death is not the end. Death
is not the final answer for those who were murdered 167 years before Christ
or for those who were killed two months ago today. Death is not the
And, of course, all of us, Iím sure, struggle
with a conviction about life after death. We know nothing about it really.
And so it is always something that, deep down, we have a certain fear of,
a fear of the unknown. And we try to convince ourselves of the reality
of everlasting life in various ways.
Back when I was in school, one of the really
important subjects we studied was philosophy and the whole thing about
being. We learned about and tried to prove that a soul is immortal
and cannot die. Rational proof is helpful, but it doesnít totally
convince us or at least I donít find it compellingly convincing.
We also, sometimes, I think, depend on anecdotal evidence, as when we hear
about near death experiences and people who have a sense that they really
have been there and they came back. Again, that helps. But,
I suppose, unless you have that experience yourself, it isnít totally convincing.
However, the scriptures today tell us where
we can really put our confidence. It isnít in ourselves, the way
weíre made, what we are as human beings, body and spirit. And it
isnít in that anecdotal evidence, if you want to call it that, of people
who have these near death experiences. Our conviction comes from
who God is. Thatís the key thing--who God is. Not what we are.
Not what other people have experienced, but who God is.
In the first lesson today from the Book of
Maccabees, we didnít go this far in the seventh chapter, but the passage
goes on to speak about the mother who had to watch her seven sons be tortured
and put to death. As she watched, the writer tells us, ďFull of a
noble sense of honor, she encouraged each one of them.Ē Her
motherís heart was moved by courage. So she told them why she could
be courageous and they also. She says, ďI wonder how you were born
of me. It was not I who gave you breath and life, nor I who ordered
the matter of your body. The creator of the world, who formed us
in the beginning and ordered the unfolding of all creation, shall in mercy
give you back breath and life.Ē
Sheís reminding those young men and ourselves
that we come from God, a God who gives us life, a God who sustains our
life, and a God who will continue to sustain our life forever.
It is God who is always faithful to us.
And because we know who God is, that is, Godís faithfulness and goodness,
bringing us into being out of love, God will never leave us. Godís
love is eternal. It is constant, it is unshakeable, and it is endless.
The love of God will always be present to us.
In the Gospel lesson, Jesus is trying to react
against the mockery of the Sadducees who were making fun of him, making
fun of the resurrection because he believed in life after death and they
did not. The Sadducees were going back to the Torah, the book of
the Law, the only five books they accepted. There, they found no
evidence of the resurrection. So out of the Torah, they draw upon
the example where a man would marry his brotherís widow and so on.
And they draw it out into a fantastic and ridiculous conclusion only to
make fun of the resurrection.
But notice how Jesus answers them by drawing
from the same books they were familiar with and the only ones they accepted.
He answers by reminding them of what happened in that experience of Moses
with the burning bush where God is revealed.
God is revealed as a God who has relationship
with those he has created. When God is revealed to Moses, God says,
ďI am the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Isaac and Rebecca, the God
of Jacob and Leah.Ē All of them had been dead for hundreds and hundreds
of years. Yet, when God is being revealed to Moses, God shows that
God is a God who continues to be in relationship with those who had gone
before. So they are still alive and with God because Godís relationships
are endless. Godís love is endless. And as God has brought us into
being, God will continue to sustain us and support us. And, if we
deepen our relationship with God, then we build, more and more, a deep
confidence that we will live forever. A confidence that we will be
with God after we depart from this world and that all who those have gone
before us God continues to be in relationship with. They are alive
and with God, the God who is forever and so are they.
And so these passages today give us a real
sense of comfort and strength as we remember those who have died, and perhaps
those who have been killed in such terrible ways. But there is another
part of the scripture, the Gospel, especially today, that is so important
for us to hear and to follow.
Notice what Jesus says about those who have
died. Or about those who are alive I should say. He says, ďYou
are sons and daughters of the resurrection. You are sons and daughters
of a God who is alive.Ē And Jesus is telling us that we must not
live like the people of this age who donít accept who God is and what the
resurrection is. We must not be like the people of this age who reject
God and Godís ways. We must be sons and daughters of God, sons and
daughters of the risen Lord Jesus, sons and daughters of the resurrection
and live according to the ways of Jesus.
We must live according to what Jesus has been
teaching us during this long journey to Jerusalem that weíve been listening
to over the last many weeks.
Thereís real a sharp contrast between those
who, as Jesus describes them, are people of this age and those who live
according to the resurrection. That contrast, for me, is brought
out in an extraordinary way by the attitude of those who want to kill in
response to killing, in response to those who have been killed.
The most direct and provocative way that this
is put are in some words of Senator John McCain who is a military hero
of our country. He unabashedly makes a combat virtue out of hate.
In his words, ďI hated my enemies even before they held me captive because
hate sustained me in my devotion to their complete destruction and helped
me overcome the virtuous human impulse to recoil in disgust from what had
to be done by my hand.Ē
Thatís a person who is living according to
the tenants of this age.
Iím not condemning John McCain as a person.
Itís the attitude that is so common with people who live according to this
age as Jesus describes it. Those who have since become so self-destructive,
they engender within themselves hatred. He says himself, ďSo
that I can overcome the virtuous human impulse to recoil in disgust from
what I have to do.Ē In other words, he destroys his own humanness
in order to kill, in order to be hate-filled. He destroys his humanness,
the person of this age. And any of us who would do the same thing,
engender a spirit of hatred for the Taliban, for those who destroyed the
World Trade Towers and want to destroy them in return, we are acting like
people of this age and not like sons and daughters of the resurrection.
But I have something else to share with you
that I find almost overwhelming. I had a phone call the other day
from a young women in New York City who called to urge me that when I go
to the bishops meeting this week to try and speak out and to convince the
bishops, if possible, to take a strong moral position against any further
bombing, any further engendering of hatred, any further engendering a spirit
Her brother was in the World Trade Tower.
He didnít work there I found out, but he had gone there to the top part
of the tower to the restaurant for breakfast. He was truly in the
wrong place at the wrong time and he was killed. After the phone
call, she sent me a written message. She says, ďIím writing
to you to offer support and encouragement for what I hope will be an ongoing
discussion among the bishops. My brother was killed on September
11 at the World Trade Center. There is no scale on which my family
can begin to measure our loss, nor are there any words to adequately express
our sorrow. My family is quite clear, however, that we would never
want another family, whether Afghani or American, to feel the way we do
now. My family runs the spectrum from pacifist to marine. But
we have tried to listen very carefully and respectfully to one another
these past two months.Ē Further on, she says, ďMy youngest sister feels
that in the face of this horrible evil, the only way to change people is
to show them love, not more evil. Christ like, yes, foolish and naïve
in human terms, no. Not when you really think about it.
Personally, I adamantly oppose the bombings.
I have no argument, other than, it is not Christ like. I do not know
what Jesus would do in these current times, but I am certain he would not
advocate the bombing of anyone.
The deepest truest part of our collective heart
knows this truth. You and I and my family live in a very human world.
So how can we reach this true place?
One stumbling block seems to be the lack of
choices given the American public concerning our response to September
11. Our country sees no other way because we have been presented
with no other way.
This is my urgent request of the bishops, ĎCan
you begin the discussion of the other way, Christís way? Can you
help provide moral guidance to a majority that is voicing support for a
bombing campaign? Can you open a dialogue of alternatives, concrete
ideas leading to Christís truth in our hearts? Can you pray that
we may all be open to Godís difficult, and sometimes divisive, message?Ē
And then she ends it by remarking about a homily
from last summer where Jesus had said, ďI came to bring fire to the earth,
a transforming fire.Ē And she says, reflecting on that, ďI could
not but help think about my brother trapped on the 106th floor of Tower
One. And although I know my brotherís death will never be in vain,
it helps me to think of Jesusí transforming fire and all that he wants
for our world: justice, peace and love. In the end, there is nothing
And thatís how she ends her letter.
And I suggest that from those two very sharp,
contrasting responses, we have a clear example of what it means to be people
of this age and what it means to be sons and daughters of the resurrection.
Isnít it important for all of us to be like this young woman in New York
City and struggle to be sons and daughters of the resurrection?
In the name of the Father and of the Son and
of the Holy Spirit. Amen.