BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa.


There was a gathering of children from different parts of the world, and a teacher asked what each one wanted to be in the future. The children from technologically advanced countries were the first to put up their hands. One confidently said: “I want to be a Doctor”; another said, “I want to be an Engineer.” But one of the children coming from a developing country where infant mortality was very high gently raised her hand and when the facilitator pointed at her to speak up, she simply said, “I want to be alive.” A strange answer, this may sound. However, given the surrounding in which this child was growing up, there is some wisdom in the answer.

If adults were to be asked a similar question: “Where will you like to be after death?” There would be all kinds of answers. Some will say: “I do not know.” Others will say, “I will like to be back in the world in a different form or as a different person”; yet others will say, “I will like to be alive and happy with my creator in heaven”. Through the years there have been so many speculations regarding what happens after death. Books and films have been produced to give a picture of what happens after death. Some internationally acclaimed movies on life after death are Ghost (1990); Defending Your Life (1991); What Dreams May Come (1998); The Five People You Will Meet in Heaven (2004); Hereafter (2010). These movies express different ideas about life after death. Similarly, many people today have all kinds of ideas regarding life hereafter.

In ancient times, among the Jews there were two schools of thought regarding the resurrection. The Pharisees who belonged to one school of thought believed in the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees were in another school of thought, vehemently opposed to the notion of resurrection after death. Studies show that belief in the resurrection was held long before the coming of Jesus. First, this belief was demonstrated when the Lord said to Moses: “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Mentioning the names means that even though these patriarchs were dead in the sight of the world, they are alive with God. Secondly, during the persecution of the Jews by King Antiochus, seven brothers and their mother were sentenced to death for refusing to worship the King. Before their death, they expressed their faith in the resurrection of the dead. One of the seven brothers said to the killer squad: “you accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of this world will see us up to live again forever.” One of the other brothers added: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him…” This sad event took place about 160 years before the birth of Jesus. These brothers and their mother had a strong conviction about the resurrection and life after death.

Nothing clarified the concept of resurrection more than the teaching and resurrection of Jesus after death. The Sadducees came to pose a question to Jesus to make a mockery of resurrection. They mentioned a culture where a brother inherited his brother’s wife after death. They added by giving an instance where seven brothers died one after the other and married the widow of their brother, one after the other. Their main question was whose wife would she be at the resurrection? Jesus made it clear to them that marriage and procreation are a necessity only in the present world, but in the life hereafter, those who resurrect would become like angels and can no longer die. This is to say that the pattern of life in heaven is different from the values of life on earth. When Jesus was on his way to raise Lazarus from death, he said: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25). These words dismiss the pathological pessimism of the Sadducees who think there is nothing more after death. Jesus says there is resurrection and life after death. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16, the Apostle Paul speaks of the good hope and everlasting encouragement, which the Lord Jesus offers us. In addition, he says if our hope is only limited to physical and worldly things then we should consider ourselves as the most miserable people (1 Corinthians 15:19).

The article on the Christian faith states, “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” This article of faith is the blessed hope we profess. Pope Benedict XVI affirms that “Faith in the resurrection says that there is a future for every human being; the cry for unending life, which is a part of the person, is indeed answered.” The resurrection is also a statement of hope, which says the dead shall live; those who fall will rise again; those who sit in darkness shall see a great light. The world today is full of tragic stories of people who rise and fall. The resurrection story turns tragic stories into meaningful stories when it points to the fact that in death, believers fall and rise. Our ultimate and blessed hope is to be alive and happy after our sojourn on earth.
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C; Cf. 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38

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