In 1982, As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev's widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev's wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband's chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.
This morning/evening we are in that time of year in which the liturgical year is coming to an end and now focusing on the afterlife. Of course we must understand in today’s Gospel there wasn’t a common belief of an afterlife and we have to understand that belief in an afterlife arose very late in the Old Testament, and even in New Testament times such a belief was not universal. The Sadducees in this Sunday’s gospel reject the notion of survival beyond death. The traditional view maintained that the human person is identified with the physical body which is animated by the breath of God (Gen. 2:7; “breath” does not mean “soul”). Death is final: “When you take away their breath, they perish and return to the dust from which they came” (Ps 104:29). The only thing which survives death is a person’s name. Thus, one’s only shot at “immortatlity” is a son who bears the father’s name. Therefore, Deuteronomy 25:5-6 provided for “levirate marriage”: if a man died without a son, the deceased man’s brother was required to marry the widow; the first son born of that union was considered the dead man’s son who bore his name and inherited his property. “Resurrection of the body” as the way to survive death is a logical consequence of Jewish belief. For Jews, the human body is identified with the person; if a person were to live beyond death, the body must be restored: hence, resurrection of the body. By contrast, Greeks believed that a person is made of body and soul. The soul was immortal and was trapped in the body until death when it was freed and lived on. Both the Jewish and Greek solutions to the problem of death and immortality are found in the Bible. The Sadducees propose to Jesus an extreme case: the pattern of childlessness and death is repeated seven times. If there were a resurrection of the dead, would the wife have seven husbands in the afterlife? They thought the very absurdity of the situation proved the foolishness of the belief. Jesus dismissed the Sadducees’ argument. Because resurrection means life, there is no need for sons to carry on the family name. With no need for sons, there was no need for marriage in the Age to Come. The absurdity of multiple marriages does not disprove resurrection; resurrection makes remarriage unnecessary.
Now this morning/evening’s readings reflecting on the second coming is not to scare us but to prepare us. As we will enter into a season of preparation in a few weeks and prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ, we have to always be prepared for meeting the Lord. Of course sometimes that is the last thing on our minds especially when consider ourselves healthy or at an age that death can’t take us now but my dear brothers and sisters none of us really knows when that hour will arrive. We should examine our lives and see what am I doing presently in order to gain eternal life? As we go to a doctor for a physical to check out our health we also need to check our spiritual lives. We all should make the sacrament of reconciliation and examine our weaknesses and with the help of a priest to be challenged on our spiritual journey. Also I would recommend if we really want to be serious about our spiritual journey we should also seek out for a spiritual director in which we can meet once a month. A spiritual director is a man or woman that is capable of accompanying people on their spiritual journeys. Usually this can be a priest, a deacon or a religious. It gives that opportunity to go even deeper and allows more time than a moment of confession on a Saturday afternoon or a penance service.
This past week I went to visit my family and I went to my home parish for the daily Mass and the priest was speaking on the importance of the Mass and especially attending Sunday Mass and he said how people could make all kinds of excuses to not attend Mass such as well I have to go to this event, I have laundry to do, or I’m just too tired but he said that these are nothing compared to what you will receive at Mass. These are not valid excuses and we should really have a priority in our lives. To really ask ourselves what is really important the kingdom of God? or the things of this Earth that really are not that important?
My dear brothers and sisters let the words that we heard from the second reading from St. Paul to the Thessalonians be our request also, “brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified, as it did among you and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith.”
Living Liturgy, p. 247