Worth Dying For: The Resurrection of the Dead
(2 Maccabees 7: 1-42)
This past week, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of getting sick for the first time as a priest. I’m typically blessed with good health, so I have a pretty low tolerance for anything less. But just as I was starting to feel sorry for myself, I read this Sunday’s first reading from the book of Maccabees. If you’ve never read this harrowing account (which is violent, terrible, and amazing) here’s the short version:
During one of the most dire persecutions of the people of Israel, a faithful Jewish mother and her seven sons are brought before the pagan king, Antiochus. Because they refuse to forsake the Law of Moses, the sons are tortured and executed, one by one in front of their mother, with their mother being put to death last. What is most especially amazing about this account is the courageous defiance and wisdom with which the mother encourages her sons to remain faithful to God:
Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman’s reasoning with a man’s courage, and said to (her sons), “I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. Therefore, the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and decided the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws… I beg you, my child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see everything that is in them and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus, also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher but prove yourselves worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers.
Biblical Commentator John Bergsma notes that ‘(b)elief in the resurrection of the dead has always been a threat to the power of (those who control) society... If there is a resurrection from the dead, then this life is not all that there is, and there may be something worth dying for. People who are willing to die for truth are hard to manipulate over long periods of time. People whose only hope is for this life are easier (to) control because making their lives miserable right now is usually enough to dissuade them from rebellion. So, the elite of our age are similarly against the populace entertaining notions of eternal life and Final Judgment.’
Our readings this Sunday give us an important reminder that there certainly is life after death, as we hear clearly from Jesus Himself in the Gospel (Luke 20:27-38). As Christians, we are reminded that no matter what opposition we face from the powers that be, the Truth of Jesus Christ is more than worth living for; It is worth fighting for, and because of the Resurrection of the Dead, it is even worth dying for.
God Love You,