The two books of Maccabees are two of the seven books that the Jews and many Protestants have rejected as being part of the Bible. The Jews justified this because these books were written in Greek and not Hebrew. In many ways we can say that these books in particular are very progressive regarding an understanding of reparation for sins of the dead, existence of purgatory and the resurrection.
Today’s first reading presents us with an edited version of a persecution of holy Jews. It is really worth while to read the entire chapter (2 Mac 7). It is a heroic story of a mother, perhaps the finest example of a true catechist, who passed on the faith to her children to the degree that her children gave their young lives ultimately with Christ on the Cross. Remember that Mary was immaculately conceived by the merits of Christ’s passion well before Jesus died on the Cross. Jesus, being the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is in eternal time making this mysteriously possible.
This loyal mother, that is, a mother who is loyal first to God and then to her children, offers her children the Truth by her witness just as Mary did at the foot of the Cross. Her children, loyal to God, experienced horrible tortures without wavering in their faith and hope in the resurrection at the end of time.
A few years ago, two or three journalists were captured by insurgents in the Middle East. They were told that if they did not convert to Islam, they would be killed. So what did they do? They converted. They freely admitted this over the television networks. Around that same time, a Catholic bishop was also captured and offered the same choice. His loyalty to God made him say, not only that this was something he could not do, but also that he would offer his beheading for the benefit of the captives and their country. They did not kill him.
The cultivation of the spiritual life is essential for getting into heaven. The trials that God sends our way are merely building up to that final moment when we will unite ourselves to Jesus on the Cross and die with Him so that we can rise with Him on the Last Day. All of our life is important. It is preparing us for an entrance into heaven only if we cooperate with God’s graces. This is why authentic Catholic education is so important. The value of valueless education in our public schools subverts young minds from the Truth which not only brings us happiness in the next life, but also in this life.
Ask your children what they think of homosexual marriages and see what they have been subtly taught to say. Do they speak for God like these Maccabee children? Their reply will teach you how well you have instructed them in the faith and will give you an indication of what God will be asking you at the final judgment. How far have you gone to bring your children to eternal life? While sexual orientation is morally neutral, its practice outside of sacramental marriage is still and always has been forbidden by God. Who is raising your children? You or the iPad?
Today’s Gospel follows the Pharisees and Scribes trying to trick Jesus, over a question of paying taxes, so He would either be killed by the Roman government or lose his standing among his followers.
Now the Sadducees move in to make Jesus look like a fool. While the Pharisees, who believe in the resurrection, and the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, are bitter enemies, they do manage to team up as an evil force against Jesus. Have you noticed the united front against the Catholic Church regarding having us pay for abortion and contraception in our health care plans? Have you noticed that the real “morality” behind this is not morality at all but a question of being a Democrat or a Republican? The Sadducees are the aristocratic elite, wealthy and theologically conservative. It was from their ranks that the high priests were chosen. They followed the Torah only. Many of them had a faith in their heads and not their hearts. They presented Jesus with a sarcastic, humorous and impossible situation – so they thought.
Jesus reveals something very important – an authoritative insight into heaven. If we get into heaven, we will still maintain our sexuality but without sexual expression. The easy part of Jesus’ teaching is that these Sadducees do not know the Scriptures. How can God be the God of Abraham, etc. if they are dead? God does not identify Himself with dead people as early as the Torah! Jesus ends up embarrassing them in front of the crowds because they did not understand what they claimed to be experts in.
The big surprise is about life after death. Jesus affirms the resurrection and then states that there is no sexual expression in heaven. This opens the door to celibacy which will be covered in another Gospel passage. This lifestyle, to which only some are called, is an anticipation of the life to come. This is why religious take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Poverty reminds us that God will provide all our needs in heaven. Chastity reminds us that there will be no need for more saints in heaven once this world is changed at the Second Coming. In heaven, everyone will obey God. While this lifestyle seems impossible to do, nothing is impossible with God. The children of Maccabees certainly understood God’s power and died in the confident hope of their resurrection and eternal life.