6 November 2016: Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary time

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14 Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15 2 Thes 2:16-3:5 Lk 20:27-38


The end times: promise of resurrection

Green_banner_sm During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ stories and teachings from his everyday ministry. As we near the end of the liturgical year, the Sunday readings’ themes become eschatological, focusing on the end times and Jesus’ second coming. This week’s readings invite us to think about the meaning of resurrection–both Jesus’ Easter resurrection and our own resurrections.

The first reading from 2 Maccabees describes the torture of a Jewish family (a widowed mother and her seven sons) by the Syrian king Antiochus IV. The family chooses to follow the covenant laws rather than save their lives. As they face death, the brothers express their belief in a personal resurrection. The Lectionary editors chose this reading to match today’s gospel’s resurrection debate.

The second reading from the second letter to the Thessalonians continues last week’s reading. Last week, the author discussed Jesus’ delayed parousia and urged his hearers not “to be alarmed” by rumors that “the day of the Lord is at hand.” This week the author concludes 2 Thes 2 with a blessing, and opens 2 Thes 3 with a prayer request for his work and for the believing community to grow in faith.

In today’s gospel Jesus spars with the Sadducees over the idea of resurrection. Jesus is now in Jerusalem, teaching in the Temple area. The Sadducees were a conservative Jewish religious faction who accepted only the written Torah as valid Hebrew scripture, rejecting the Prophets and the Writings. They try to turn the Temple crowds against Jesus by presenting an absurd case in which seven brothers in succession marry a childless widow. They then ask Jesus, “If there is a resurrection, to which brother is she married?” They expect Jesus must answer either “All, because they will all be resurrected,” or “None, because there is no resurrection.” Recognizing their trap, Jesus responds by insulting the Sadducees, answering their question, pointing out the limits of their thinking, and asking a question they can’t answer:

  • Jesus’ insult:Humans marry and are given in marriage” (v 34). Jesus states the obvious to insult the Sadducees.
  • Jesus’ answer:Resurrected ones do not marry nor are given in marriage.” (v 35). Jesus answers the Sadducees’ question.
  • The Sadducees’ limited thinking: “Resurrected ones can’t die.” (v 36). Jesus tells the Sadducees that resurrected ones are different because they are deathless. Resurrected life is not a continuation of earthly life, but something new and different.
  • A question from Jesus:Moses revealed at the burning bush that he believed in the resurrection” (v 37). Jesus uses the Sadducees’ own Torah (Ex 3:6) to prove the resurrection. Jesus asks, “If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are dead, how could God be the God of the living?”

Today’s readings ask RCIA participants and the believing community to think about the meaning of resurrection. Jesus’ final point–that God is a God of the living, not the dead–puts the emphasis on God’s relationship with those God loves. That relationship transcends human death. Jesus’ Easter resurrection foreshadows and promises our own resurrections. Do we believe God’s love surpasses death? Do we live that relationship?

—Terence Sherlock

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