2 Tm 1:1-3, 6-12; Ps 123:1b-2ab, 2cdef; Mk 12:18-27
Saint Charles Lwanga and his fellow martyrs cried out from the depths of their chaste hearts, “Let me not be put to shame!” Their example is now heroic for Catholic Youth in Africa and throughout the world. In an age of agenda driven rights, many youth are instructed to not judge those who push so called “intergenerational intimacy.” We are summoned by Christ to hate sin and to love sinners. So we must judge the evil in the promotion of promiscuity or lust. Sin is our true enemy. Sinners are to be loved, prayed for, and respected. The Gospel does not give us permission to persecute or inflect violence upon anyone. We trust in the wisdom of the Scripture and the teaching of the church to guide us in the paths of holiness. Walking by faith and not be sight we are supported by the compassion and kindness of the LORD. Our prayer and witness will show sinners the way to humility and glory. This is our deepest desire that all come to know the love and mercy of the LORD Our God.
Why do we lift up our eyes to the LORD? Why do we gaze upon the One who is enthroned in heaven? Perhaps because we want to stir into flame the gift God gave us in Baptism, at Confirmation, and in every Reconciliation we have received throughout our lives of faith. In these great moments of grace hands were imposed upon us. Now, when we take prayer seriously, we stir up our hearts and lift up our eyes. As servants of the Most High our eyes are on the hands of our master. We watch the wounded hands of our Blessed Savior to see how next we are to serve him. Will the Master beckon us closer to hear words of intimacy? Will the Master send us to fill the empty water jugs? Indeed, with saints throughout the ages, we want to do what he wants us to do, the way he wants us to do it, for as long as he wants us to do it, because he wants us to do it. This desire is repeated in the second stanza of today’s psalm, but it is from the perspective of a maid with her eyes upon the hands of her mistress. Indeed all baptized children of God cannot take their eyes off the One For Whom They Long. The desire to please the LORD is universal and constant. Indeed, like the angels before the Throne of God and of the Lamb we gaze with delight upon the LORD and sing his praises. We, likewise, are swift to fulfill his every command. This is the LORD that evoked the praises of the Seraphim and the Cherubim. It is the same LORD who inspired the Prophet to cry out, “Here am I LORD, send me!”
In a shame based society it is difficult for Saint Timothy and all believers to bear their share of the hardship for the sake of the Gospel. Indeed, they need to stir up the fire given to them with the imposition of hands and rely upon the strength that comes from God. Being in prison and every form of suffering was interpreted as a sign of God’s disapproval. The age-old question of Blessed Job is asked again in this generation: “Why do the just suffer?” Still the common sense response to that question is that suffering is a punishment for sin. Saint Paul invites Saint Timothy and every generation of church leaders and church faithful to go beyond the wisdom of the age. We are to behold with eyes of faith that God has saved us and called us to a holy life. Not because of our own righteousness or because of our religious rituals, but because of his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began. Indeed, the New Job, the truly innocent Lamb of God suffered extreme humiliation upon the cross so that in all our suffering we might become more and more identified with him. Indeed, the wisdom of the Cross of Christ is that suffering for the sake of the Gospel is not a punishment but sheer delight to share in the redeeming love of Our Blessed Savior.
The Lord Jesus seeks to heal the wrong headed and hopeless hearted beliefs of the Sadducees. In today’s gospel they try to prove that the Pharisees, are dead wrong about the resurrection. These professional religious rhetoricians argue that it is absurd to believe that we continue to live after death because according to the Torah, we are commanded to marry and bear sons for our brothers who die without any descendents. Such an absurdity is proven in their logic by arguing from the extreme case of one woman being married to seven brothers. Who would then be her husband in the resurrection? Jesus sides with his opponents, the Pharisees, in defending belief in personal survival after death. For many Jews back then survival after death was a matter of having children to remember you, or having a good reputation for future generations to recall. Jesus confronts such hopelessness. He argues his point without reference to his own future resurrection; rather, he uses what is available to his opponents, Scriptures. The great “I Am” is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They are alive and present to the one who gives life. The argument ad absurdum is countered when Jesus reveals that we have eternal life in the same way that the angels have life. For those who put their trust in God, life is new and everlasting. We live no longer for ourselves nor in fear of losing our life because of insults or shame; like the angels we live for God—gazing upon the beauty of His Face and ever ready to do His Will. Such is the hope that fills our emptiness each time we take and eat the Bread broken and the Blood outpoured.