Something to Live For…Something to Die For

November 10th, 2019 32nd Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: The Resurrection in your life

Psalm 17:1-8, 2 Maccabees 7:1-14, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5, Luke 20:27-38

“If a man dies, will he live again?” Job raises this fundamental question while patiently enduring his suffering in the oldest book in the Bible (Job 14:14). It is an important question that each of us needs to ask. The answer will determine your life’s purpose, your daily conduct, and if there is any comfort to be found after you leave a cemetery. Our gospel reading in Luke 20:27-38 introduces us to a sect of powerful Jewish leaders known as the Sadducees. Unlike the Pharisees, they did not believe in a resurrected life after death. So, they were sad…you see. To prove their point, they challenge Jesus with what they think is the unanswerable question. They ask, “What is a woman’s marital status in the next life if she has married multiple husbands in this life?” This is a no brainer for our Lord. He easily shreds their assumptions about the future and shows them that historically, the scriptures have plainly taught a resurrection. The Bible invests heavily in life after death. Without it, there would be no Christian faith since on the cross the God-man would have succumbed to deicide (1 Corinthians 15:16). The totality of existence would be, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Jesus, however, did rise from the grave on Easter Sunday and won the decisive victory over sin, Satan, and death. The Resurrection assures us the gospel message of salvation is true. By faith in the Son of God we have the hope of heaven and our lives have purpose in its power now on earth. Though the conflict of good vs. evil has been decided, the war still rages on. The resurrection gives us what we need to endure even the most challenging battles.

Our reading in 2 Maccabees 7:1-14 gives a graphic account of a mother and her seven sons, who bravely face torture and death at the hands of king Antiochus. The account of this persecution runs the whole of chapter 7. If you care to read it, you will wince at their pain and be inspired by their courage as they stay true to God and not defile themselves by eating pork. You will discover that the one recurring theme that bolsters their determination to suffer their agonizing deaths is the belief in the resurrection (2 Maccabees 7:9.11,14). Nobody has a death wish, but faith in the promise that this life is not the end gives us the fortitude to face anything. Even Jesus, at the garden of Gethsemane prayed that the cup would be taken away. It was His faith that He would rise on the third day that led Him to drink it, go to the cross, save mankind, and give us a rare opportunity to see that our God is courageous. Whether our Lord chooses to take us from this world through martyrdom or not, one thing is for sure: you will not die for Christ unless and until you are willing to live for Him.

Psalm 17:1-8 directs us in our personal struggles in the war of good vs. evil. The new resurrected life in Jesus gives us victory over sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can lead a virtuous life. We should want to. The Lord expects it. Even though we are not perfect, we need to pursue holiness with prayer, patience, and perseverance. The Psalmist also directs us to avoid opportunities for sin in our daily choices.  King David demonstrates his wisdom in asking the Lord to evaluate his conduct and to keep to him close for his protection. The Apostle Paul picks up on that idea in 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5. He points out the resurrection promises of eternal comfort with a blessed hope and then ties them into strength for good works and the spreading of the gospel. The Apostle also encourages them to remain steadfast in the face of dangers from Satan and evil perverse men not of the faith.

It is important to live for Christ in the power of His resurrection or you will not be able to face the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:10). In America today, it’s almost guaranteed that if you stand up for Jesus, you’re going to step on somebody’s foot. The consequences are still mild. In other countries believers suffer in camps and are martyred daily, but that will change here as the West continues its post Christian course. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago (1937-2015) noted this trend:

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”

Whether his predictions come true in our lifetime or not, God has placed us in a time such as this. We have a profound obligation to our resurrected Lord to be salt and light in the world. Let us start with the Apostle Paul’s command that we present ourselves as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God and after doing that… let’s not crawl off the alter (Romans 12:1-2).

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