Remembering who you are.
2 Mac 7.1-2, 9.14.
The Maccabee brothers and their mother are presented to us in today’s reading as an example of faithfulness to their heritage as God’s chosen people, despite the continuing challenges they faced, having been held in exile by the Babylonians until freed by the Persians. They are now being harassed by the Greeks who have become masters of the known civilised world. The Jews back in Jerusalem kept their heads down but after the death of Alexander the Great, the kingdom broke up and Palestine became a target for the Syrians. The King Antiochus wanted everyone to follow his religion which the Jews considered to be pagan and rife with loose morals. Refusing to follow, the Jews suffered a ferocious persecution. The Maccabee brothers were fighters. We even know some of their names, Judas, Matthias, Jonathon, Simon. Each one endured gruesome torture rather than break with God’s promise, teachings, and the traditions of the Covenant. The mother encouraged each of them to remember who they were – people of hope leading to resurrection.
The theme continues in Paul’s Second letter to the Thessalonians. Paul is quite alarmist in his message to the them though he does ask them not to be alarmed! He warns of the many deceptions present in their everyday living drawing them away from the message and all that he has taught them. He warns them not to be deceived by the evil which is among them. He spells out the deceptive strategies of the’ lawless one’ among a community. He bolsters up their faith commitment to a faithful God who will give them the vision to discern that a life without faith in a Creator God is one-dimensional. He urges them to ‘stand firm’ and honour the traditions they have received. This is a stiff admonition to any Christian community which daily has to assess the injustices, the lack of human rights, the misuse and corruption of technological or medical advances in our daily human story; migrants driven from their homes; wanton misuse of our planet. There is much for us to ponder upon here Our world of today is easily recognisable here, the world each of us faces daily.
Jesus had been fielding questions from the temple priests, scribes and elders all aimed at tricking him into saying something that will give them reason to kill him. The Sadducees now try him out with a pseudo-intellectual argument about the resurrection of the dead. We are well aware of the questions in our own time surrounding human conception, of life and death. They never go away. Many people regard the notion of the resurrection as ridiculous. Jesus in his answer to the Sadducees gives them the essential facts of who they are – ‘we are children of God, children of the resurrection’ (v36). When we say we believe in the resurrection we are simultaneously acknowledging our belief in all that is of our created life. This is gift, freely given. Our vision is no longer one-dimensional but rather, multifaceted, multi-coloured. It is participating in the Divine Vision, the love for each and everything in our created world. This answer satisfied the Sadducees. We will all rise to an eternal life.
The Peruvian Dominican theologian Gustavo Gutierrez writes, “To be a Christian means believing in the resurrection of the Lord and believing, therefore, that history’s last word is not death but life. I believe that the great challenge in the future will be to continue proclaiming life in the face of death. This implies many things. It implies many commitments to defend life, justice and fundamental human rights.”
We have been missioned for this.
Dominique Horgan O.P.