2MC 7:1-2, 9-14; 2THES 2:16-3:5; Lk 20:27-38
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Just want to let the readers of this blog in the Philippines that you are all very much in my thoughts and prayers, and all of our prayers here, as typhoon Haiyan approaches.)
Look closely at the first reading this week and you’ll find a an idea that is radically new for the Hebrew scriptures. It is a reference to the resurrection of the dead.
Many people are surprised to learn that belief in an afterlife is not part of Old Testament theology. In the ancient Hebrew mind, death brought with it a shadowy existence in a place referred to as Sheol. While the particulars are vague, it’s clear that this is not a place one looks forward to going. This is the reason that the prophets insist so passionately on working to achieve justice and peace now – there simply isn’t any “later”.
This reading from the second book of Maccabees, a set of books written at the very end of the Old Testament times, demonstrates that on the eve of the arrival of Jesus things are changing. The possibility that the righteous might find a fuller experience of life after death rather than a diminished one is beginning to take root in the Jewish mind and soul. It would still be a topic open to debate in the time of Jesus and Saint Paul, but by that time the belief in a resurrection from the dead for the righteous into God’s glory was firmly established among the teaching of the Pharisees.
Soon after that, a small sect of Jews preaching a most unconventional Messiah would begin to convert the Roman Empire to the belief that resurrection into eternal life was open to all – Jew and Gentile – because the risen Christ had made it so. The more that God reveals, the brighter the future gets.
Pessimists and cynics – at least those who wish to remain pessimists and cynics – need not apply for admittance to the kingdom of God. As Jesus says in the gospel,”(God) is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Death,suffering, disappointment and grief are all fastened firmly to this earthly pilgrimage. They do not follow us into eternity. Those who are alive in Christ do not dwell in the shadowlands of Sheol. They rejoice in the pure light of God and find out, for the first time, what the fullness of life really means.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
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