Gospel – Luke 20:27-38
came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers;
the first married a woman but died childless.
Then the second and the third married her,
and likewise all the seven died childless.
Finally the woman also died.
Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them,
“The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.
They can no longer die,
for they are like angels;
and they are the children of God
because they are the ones who will rise.
That the dead will rise
even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,
when he called out ‘Lord, ‘
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;
and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,
for to him all are alive.”
Reflection on the Gospel
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
Most people are unfamiliar with the books of Maccabees. It recounts a religious revolt that
took place about two hundred years before the birth of Christ (167-160 B. C. E.). The revolt was carried out by Jews who would rather die at the hands of the conquering Greeks than renounce their faith or the religious practices which identified them as worshippers of the God of Israel. The first reading for today’s liturgy is part of the account of the martyrdom of seven brothers, each professing his faith with his last words.
We might listen to this reading and wonder how people can be willing to endure such horrors for their faith and forget that such events unfold in many parts of our world even today. Recently in the United States, the notion of religious freedom has been used as a defense against laws that seem to threaten some moral values held dear by many. Without minimizing the importance of this particular concern, we should remember that even in such situations, we have legal recourse to work to either change such laws or exempt ourselves from them. The brothers in the first reading and other victims of severe religious persecution often do not have such recourse or options.
We are fortunate that one of the building blocks of our national profile is freedom of religion, which means that there will be no state religion. No particular religion can be forced on the citizenry, as was the case at the time of the Maccabees. We in the United States are faced with a different challenge, namely, how to be faithful to our religious values and practices in a pluralistic society, a society that many would say is more secular than it is religious. Furthermore, how do we do this without forcing our values and practices on others? These are all questions of justice.
We live in a country with laws that forbid religious persecution. Nonetheless, these laws have not always done away with religious biases, whether they are anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, or antiIslamic. Because ethnic customs and religious practices are often intertwined, the bias could be considered by some to be cultural. However, those who suffer the discrimination experience the religious prejudice underneath the criticism as did Catholic immigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
We ourselves might not be suffering religious persecution, but as members of the Body of Christ we have a serious responsibility to work for true religious freedom for others. This also means that we cannot stay silent when other religious faiths or practices are ridiculed or placed in jeopardy. Perhaps one of the most moving examples of such support of others occurred in an all-girls high school in the Midwest. After 9/11 a Muslim girl wearing a head scarf was harassed as she took public transportation to school. The next day, all the girls in her class came to school wearing head scarfs. Their act not only demonstrated their support of their classmate, but it also made them vulnerable to ridicule as well. These teenage girls had courage like the brothers depicted in the first reading.
Dianne Bergant, CSA
Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP Distinguished Professor Emerita of Old Testament Studies
Saint John Baptist de La Salle – Pray for us.
Live, Jesus, in our hearts – Forever.