By Melanie Rigney
“Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living;
for to him all of them are alive.”.~Luke 20:38
Call it the day of seven brothers: one set, a family of martyrs; the other, a family created by the Sadducees in yet another effort to trap Jesus. Both teach us much about what living for God looks like: brave, hopeful, and obedient.
Saying No to Spiritual Death
In today’s first reading, the extraordinary story of the seven brothers and their mother begins. The family endures whipping, scourging, frying, and worse rather than going against their ancestors’ laws. One by one, they are slaughtered, the mother last. The king gives each of them the opportunity to apostatize; each refuses. Indeed, the fourth brother says he’d rather die now with the hope of what comes next than to be his tormentors, who will have “no resurrection to life” (2 Maccabees 7:14).
A simple “OK, I recognize the king’s authority is greater than my faith,” at least in theory, would have sufficed. But the brothers and their mother know the bodily torture will end—and the cost of denying God and losing one’s soul is unthinkable.
The “What If” Brothers
In the Gospel reading, the Sadducees pose a question that makes us roll our eyes at its absurdity. A brother dies childless, so his brother marries the widow. The second brother dies, also childless. The third brother does the same, and so on until the seven brothers and the woman are all dead.
Who is her husband at the resurrection? That’s what the Sadducees want Jesus to answer. Not, of course, that they have any serious intellectual or spiritual curiosity; they were rock-solid sure that the soul was not immortal.
But Jesus answers anyway: eternal life is different. This God is the God of the living—and it’s time to stop posing silly questions and live as if your life depended on it because it does.
The Pain and the Glory
We can get so caught up in our day-to-day lives that our resurrection seems guaranteed or theoretical. That misplaced self-confidence is as bad as the Sadducees’ arrogant reliance on their interpretation of scripture.
It’s far harder to live as the Maccabean family, boldly standing up for our faith rather than going along to get along. That won’t likely cost us physical torment, but it may cost us friendships and standing in our communities. It can be painful, emotionally and mentally. But it’s the only way to the hope of the resurrection’s glory.
Lord, be my spiritual armor. Make me strong in your name.
Call to Action
The next time neighbors or coworkers start talking about a hot-button issue, assuming you agree with them, don’t nod or change the topic. Instead, calmly explain your faith-based view.
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