Today's readings remind us to hold fast to the faith and the resurrection.
In the first reading, we read of a family who was arrested and tortured. They were forced to eat pork which violates the Jewish law of refraining from eating unclean animals (Leviticus 11:7). These laws were given in order to ween the Jew off of Pagan rituals which called for the consumption of meat offered to idols. These animals were seen as "unclean" because they were offered to these idols and because they often caused sickness (Exodus 34:15). The swine is known to contain many pathogens which can cause severe sickness, especially when the meat is not well prepared. Christ declared that all foods are clean, so we can have pork and other foods that were avoided by the Jews (Mark 7:19). This family of seven brothers and their mother refused to give in to the king's demands to betray Jewish laws. They preferred to face torture and death rather than break God's laws. We too are called to this brave stance in the face of persecution. When the time comes - and it will come - we must remain firm and not betray God like Judas Iscariot did (Matthew 26:14-16). We must remember that even if we lose our lives, this does not mean that we disappear into oblivion (Colossians 3:3). God will raise us up in Christ (Romans 8:11). This family we read about in the first reading believed in the resurrection. We will read in the Gospel today how the Sadducees used this first reading to create a riddle for Jesus in order to stump Him. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and wanted to make Jesus look stupid by presenting a riddle based on the laws of cultural marriage found in Genesis 38:8 and Deuteronomy 25:5. They worded it to Him based on today's reading of Maccabees. It is interesting to note that our Protestant friends do not accept the books of Maccabees despite it being referenced in the Gospels showing the books were part of the Judaism Jesus practiced and were seen as inspired Scriptures. We must remain faithful even till the end. Christ will appear in glory and raise the dead. We will be filled with joy as today's responsorial Psalm tells us. Faith in God extremely important. With this faith comes loyalty. We must ask God to keep us as the apple of His eye, metaphorically speaking. We must die as saints so wecan wake in God and be content in His presence. The second reading reminds us to be faithful and to trust in God who will strengthen us and protect us from the evil one. We all know who this evil one is. This is Satan who wills our destruction. God will deliver us from the wicked. We see on the news how Isis and other evil organizations are killing Christians. These people parade around believing they are victorious. However, when Christ returns, we will see these brave Christians return glorified in Him who they believed in.
Lastly, in the Gospel, we read of the Sadducees placing before Christ a riddle based on the family we read about in the book of Maccabees. They try hard to make Christ contradict Himself. Remember, Christ was not well educated. He did not have a doctorate in theology (like He needs it) nor did He have the same education the Sadducees and Pharisees had. He was a humble carpenter's son (Mark 6:3). Christ was truly human and truly God. Anyhow, the Sadducees posed to Him a riddle about the law that required the brother of another brother who died to take his wife. Today, we may see this law as strange. Radical feminists see it as a humiliation of women by making her an heirloom that is passed on. This is not the case at all. This law was instituted so the woman could be taken care of, instead of abandoned. In America, women who were left as widows could not claim the property of her husband. Many women ended up homeless after their husbands died. Only a man could hold money and property, so widows were left out. This law requiring the brother to take his dead brother's wife was meant to prevent this kind of situation. It is a law that reflects the time, circumstance and culture of a period long ago. Therefore, we must understand it in that light and not fall into presentism. The Sadducees want to force Jesus to make the idea of the resurrection look foolish. If a woman has several husbands, then at the resurrection, who is she really a wife of? Jesus outsmarts them by exposing their ignorance. Marriage, relationships, sex are all things of this age. In heaven, there is no marriage. It is not necessary. Marriage is a reminder of the union between man and God (Article 7, Catechism of the Catholic Church). This is why Matrimony is a Sacrament or visible sign of God's grace (CCC 1601). St. Augustine tells us,"What did the Lord say to the Sadducees? He said, 'You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God. For in the resurrection they marry neither husbands nor wives; for neither do they start dying again, but they will be equal to the angels of God.' The power of God is great. Why do they not marry husbands or wives? They will not start dying again. When one generation departs, another is required to succeed it. There will not be such liability to decay in that place ("Sermon 362.18-19," quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 313.)." Heaven is perfection. We will not need marriage, families, or even love because we will be with the one who is perfect love, God. The Sadducees in their ignorance failed to capture this important fact. Moses believed in the resurrection. God reveals it indirectly when He presents Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men have died, so why would God speak of them as if they still existed? He did so because they still did exist despite being dead and will rise when the day comes.
St. Cyril of Alexandria says, "The Savior also demonstrated the great ignorance of the Sadducees by bringing forward their own leader Moses, who was clearly acquainted with the resurrection of the dead. He set God before us saying in the bush, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.' Of whom is he God, if, according to their argument, these have ceased to live? He is the God of the living. They certainly will rise when his almighty right hand brings them and all that are on the earth there. For people not to believe that this will happen is worthy perhaps of the ignorance of the Sadducees, but it is altogether unworthy of those who love Christ. We believe in him who says, 'I am the resurrection and the life.' He will raise the dead suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, and at the last trumpet. It shall sound, the dead in Christ shall rise incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For Christ our common Savior will transfer us into incorruption, glory and to an incorruptible life ("Commentary on Luke, Homily 136," quoted in Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 313.)." Heaven will be a totally new experience like nothing we could ever imagine. This is why the Catholic faith celebrates chastity and celibacy. These will be the norm in heaven. There will no marriage or courtships. It will be eternal joy with our Creator. All things of the flesh or carnal ideas will be left behind. St. Ambrose says, "Mystically, this woman is the synagogue, which had seven husbands, as it is said to the Samaritan, Thou hadst five husbands, (John 4:18.) because the Samaritan follows only the five books of Moses, the synagogue for the most part seven. And from none of them has she received the seed of an hereditary offspring, and so can have no part with her husbands in the resurrection, because she perverts the spiritual meaning of the precept into a carnal. For not any carnal brother is pointed at, who should raise seed to his deceased brother, but that brother who from the dead people of the Jews should claim unto himself for wife the wisdom of the divine worship, and from it should raise up seed in the Apostles, who being left as it were unformed in the womb of the synagogue, have according to the election of grace been thought worthy to be preserved by the admixture of a new seed (Quoted in Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Luke, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 3 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1843), 665–666.)." Let us trust God alway even in times of trial. Let us hold fast to the hope in the resurrection. We all will die but will rise on the last day. It will not be a zombie apocalypse kind of rising, but a glorious one like the one of Christ. Keep the faith! May Jesus be praised!