THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [2 MACCABEES 7: 1 – 2. 9 – 14] is more easily understood if seen in direct relation to THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 20: 27 – 38].

To begin with the Old Testament verses include (i) “you dismiss us from this present life but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life ..”, (ii) “from him I hope to get them back…”, and (iii) “the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.” NOW, jump to the Gospel verses which begin with “there came to Jesus some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection …”

{DO NOT OVERLOOK THE MACCABEAN REFERENCE TO THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE, AND THE COMING CELEBRATION OF CHRIST THE KING}

We are, in each of these scriptures, faced with a very similar situation (and here is the value of this Old Testament reading) – a nation / community divided against itself. So it is useful to bear in mind a remark of Jesus (which appears in all three of the Synoptic versions) concerning a kingdom divided against itself must come to ruin {Mt 12: 25, Mk 3: 24 & Lk 11:17}.

The Maccabean community was living in a state of very divided opinion. There were those who sought some sort of compromise with the pagan, civil, authority in order to survive. When the push came to the shove, many felt that it was better to ‘give-in’ on some (perhaps) lesser ritual prescriptions than to risk a harsher regime. Others, like the those in our extract, stood for no compromise. It was about at this time that two fundamental truths of faith began to evolve from theory to fact. Firstly, that existence after death was much more than a ‘place of peace and happiness’ but a true resurrection of the body into a new life. Secondly, the idea of God as king and lord of a universal kingdom began to emerge. The preaching of Jesus about THE KINGDOM brought this truth into sharp reality. However, in the time of Jesus, acceptance of the truth of RESURRECTION was not yet completely accepted by the Jewish religious leaders. The Sadducees who did not accept resurrection were in opposition to the Pharisees who did. Once again we are faced with a faith / religious community with divided leadership and sectional opinion.

A divided community with partisan leadership is BAD NEWS FOR ANY COMMUNITY because it is destructive and counterproductive. As far as the Christian community is concerned it is a recipe for disaster. This is especially true when each ‘party’ claims the Risen Christ, Jesus the Lord, as on ‘their side’. The Sadducees, by posing a ridiculous question, hoped to show that the arguments for resurrection were faulty and / or try to get Jesus on their side. The latter achievement would have been good ‘ammunition’ against the Pharisees. The Sadducees hoped to score a few points.

We (including our leaders), in the Church, must be very careful of not adopting a similar attitude

. Remember last week’s reference to Pope Francis’ approach to life in the Church — a community which is an orchestra, unity in diversity, all playing the same tune but with different sounds which are blended together by the leader. Theleader must accept, have a knowledge of, AND USE all the instruments. It is no good each player trying to ‘score points’ off the others. They have to play the same tune in a different way. There is still much for us to learn. As has been mentioned before – what we believe is not nearly as important as to HOW WE BELIEVE IT. My ‘how’ can be (indeed should be) different from others.

In our Gospel reading there is another important teaching. Jesus emphasises that our resurrected life is not to be understood as THIS existence being continued. The life after death is an entirely new form and way of living, “for we cannot die any more.” Our present life is LIMITED and circumscribed by death itself. Once death has been overcome, we are free from the questions, doubts, and human commitments that belong to the maze of our present life and living.

In this life OUR NEW TESTAMENT VERSES [2 THESSALONIANS 2: 16 – 3: 5] offers rather valuable advice. In brief, it asks us not to complicate our lives unnecessarily (the Sadducees for example!). We have already been established in comfort and hope and must have confidence in the Lord. When we think about this, we encounter the very nuts and bolts of faith.

Then, indeed, the Lord “will direct (our) hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ.”