November 7, 2019
In our gospel today, Jesus responds to the Sadducees—who did not believe in the resurrection from the dead on the last day—that our God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. After all, Jesus states, God revealed Godself to Moses as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, all of whom were long dead in history before Moses ever lived.
It is this hope in a future with the living God that sustains the mother and her seven sons during their persecution of torture at the hands of the wicked tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes IV. While he may maim and torture them, they steadfastly believe and hope that the God who created them will be able to re-create and restore them as they are raised on the last day. Right now, in the eyes of the world, they look foolish for not saving their lives by denying their faith, but on the Day of the Resurrection, they will be seen for who they are: wise and faithful to God and God’s Law. On the other hand, the wicked tyrant will be seen for who he is: one who, because of his hatred and evil, is unworthy of continued life with God.
In the Resurrectionist Prayer, we pray to the Risen Lord—the Way, the Truth, and the Life—asking him to make us faithful followers of the spirit of his resurrection, helping us to be inwardly renewed, dying to ourselves so that he may live in us. St. Paul’s life was an embodiment of this prayer. As he preached the gospel, he served tirelessly, with little attention to himself, trusting that God would do more within him than he could ever ask or imagine. As he poured out himself for the sake of the gospel, his trust in the Risen Lord proved to be well-founded. He was able to proclaim—despite all the difficulties, obstacles, and sufferings he endured—that “it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me.” With this experience of the Risen Lord living within him more and more as he died to himself, St. Paul urges the people of Thessalonica to know that the Risen Lord and God the Father will continue to encourage their hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word that they perform.
Through our Baptism, we continue to live the pattern of the hope of new life in the face of suffering and death. We know from our life experiences that, at times, we are able to quickly know the “rising to new life” that our “dying to self” has brought about. For instance, we might not have had much energy to visit one who is sick, but afterward we have a sense of the goodness that this act brought about, not only for the sick person, but also for us. However, we also know that the new life that is promised may not come as quickly or as clearly to us; indeed, it often comes in times long waited for and in ways that we did not expect. This is why St. Paul urges us to continue to trust in God “who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace.” As God’s word is spoken and comes alive for us this day, we pray that, like St. Paul, we will grow in trust that the presence of the Risen Lord will grow within us as we die to ourselves in acts of service and self-sacrifice…even if this is to happen, not according to our own time and plan, but according to God’s.