1Mc 6:1-13; Ps 9:2-6,16,19; Lk 20:27-40
We are temples of The LORD, and we are sanctified in order that we might enjoy and share in God’s saving work. It is for this life of holiness that Psalm 9 invites all to give thanks. With our brothers and sisters in the faith we give thanks for the abundant life made available through the Cross of Christ. By our lives of faithful witness, we declare all the wondrous deeds of the Lord Jesus. We are glad and exult in him; we sing praise to the Name of the Most High. Indeed, our enemies—death and the fear of death—are turned back, overthrown and destroyed forever. Indeed, we cry out in season and out of season: “O Christ, Our God, by dying you have destroyed death! Alleluia!” All the nations and the powers of this world who persecute and try to destroy the poor ones of the Lord Jesus sink into the pit they have made, in the snare they set, their feet are caught. “For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor shall the hope of the afflicted forever perish.” Our ancestors in the faith have survived political, social and religious tyranny; we celebrate these victories each time we read and reflect upon the Maccabean revolt. It is the faith of the early church that we continue to celebrate in the good news of what heaven is really like. These revelations summon us to find our sustenance in the Bread of Heaven.
The Jewish people have been afflicted throughout history. During the reign of King Antiochus their had little gladness, exultation, or praise in their lives. The tyrant did not last; his reign of violence had an end. As we hear in the first reading the king was on his final gold-lust conquest, not only did he experience defeat in Persia he received the report about his army in Judah that was routed by the Maccabean revolt. All this bad news was too much for his heart to take. King Antiochus retreated to his deathbed and summoned his closest warriors to his side for his final commands. As is typical of a tyrant, he saw himself as beloved in his rule. Those he conquered were not of the same opinion. In his last days some fear of death kept the comfort of sleep from the king. As he thought over his life, the king began to regret some of his military decisions, “I now recall the evils I did in Jerusalem, when I carried away all the vessels of gold and silver that were in it, and for no cause gave orders that the inhabitants of Judah be destroyed. I know that this is why these evils have overtaken me; and now I am dying, in bitter grief, in a foreign land.” Those who live by the sword die by the sword. It was the zeal of the Maccabean family that was a blow too much for Antiochus. Ultimately all tyrants, those who tried to destroy the church throughout history and those who tried to destroy the faith of Israel, end up in the same deadly fear and bitter grief because the Lord does not forget the poor and afflicted.
This loving care with all its intensity and faithfulness does not end even when we die. Death is not the end of God’s love. His love is as fierce as death and more relentless than the nether world so the Song of Songs proclaims. The good news of our Lord Jesus was attractive to the Pharisees because they believed in personal resurrection and angels and demons, but the Sadducees completely rejected such teaching. They were the biblical literalists of the day. They only believed what was written in the text of the Torah. It is with this text itself that the Lord Jesus counters their ad absurdum argument about a childless woman. The Lord uses one of the high points of revelation in the Scriptures to make his point about the God of the living. He points to the Lord’s self-revelation in the burning bush encounter with Moses; the text literally says that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob not was. This was challenging enough for these literalists, however, the Lord Jesus had yet another challenge. He summoned them the think outside the box. To be able to see heaven as it is, not as man would design it. In heaven we are all celibates and we are all married to God. To this revelation of spousal intimacy with God and of an eternity living like angels, praising God because we want to and always ready to do his will because we want to, all this was too much. Sometimes it’s too much even for today. Sometimes our response is still, “Teacher, you have answered well.” After that, we dare not ask anything else.