Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 6, 2016
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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Today’s readings present us with two contrasting positions about life after death.

The first reading tells of the martyrdom of seven Jewish brothers. The Hellenic empire was trying to change the faith of the People of God. Everyone had to sacrifice to the pagan divinities instead of worshiping the only and true God. Whoever did not accept this edict was sentenced to death. The brothers were not afraid of those who kill the body because they cannot kill the soul. All the brothers were tortured and killed because of their refusal to transgress the sacred laws. In the seven brothers who bravely faced martyrdom, we can see a deep sense of eternal life. Their courage and strength were based on the certainty that they would rise from the dead.

In today’s Gospel, we encounter another position. The Sadducees did not believe in eternal life. They did not believe in life after death and posed an absurd hypothetical question to Jesus about a woman who had married seven brothers in succession.

The ends of marriage are the good of the spouses, procreation and the education of offspring. We can easily understand that such ends no longer apply in Heaven. Marriage is an institution for this life. In this life, a husband and wife have to help each other to fulfill their destinies. They also have the missions of the transmission of life and the education of their children in faith. In Heaven, total happiness is achieved. The transmission of life has no place there because we shall be inside the font of all life. Marriage belongs to the pilgrimage; it is for those who are walking the path and ends when the destination is reached. Does this mean that our relationships will have no more relevance in Heaven? Not all. In the light of God, everything we have loved in this world will be viewed in its total truth and beauty.

Vocations of special consecration are a sign of eternal life. The reason why religious make vows is to serve as a sign in this world that reminds us of our eternal destiny. The persons called by Jesus to live their lives in the total consecration of themselves in virginity and celibacy show us what our future will be. In heaven, God’s presence will provide total satisfaction of our desire for happiness.

Our secularized world has no sense of eternal life. Contemporary culture is based in the idea that our life is only in this world. Such a culture tends to influence us. We believe in eternal life and profess it when we recite our Creed but are at risk of living our lives as if it did not exist.

Are our primary interests based on earth or in heaven? We need to have a better sense of eternal life. There is a prayer that helps us understand what it means to bear our destiny in mind: “O God, protector of those who hope in you, […] bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that […] we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.”

Let us pray for Our Lord to increase our awareness of eternal life so that we may live this life in the light of eternity.  Amen.

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