Martyrdom of the seven sons, 2 Maccabees

READINGS: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14/ 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 / Luke 20:27-38
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Thus, in today’s gospel reading, they confronted Jesus with a riddle to prove their point (cf. Luke 20:27-33). To their dismay, however, Jesus easily solved their riddle and emphasized the reality of heavenly life with God which begins with the resurrection (cf. Luke 20:34-38).

In contrast to the Sadducees, a Jewish mother and her seven sons did not only believe in the resurrection, but it also motivated them to remain faithful to God in the face of extreme torture and cruel deaths (cf. 2 Macc. 7:1-2,9-14; first reading). Beloved, the resurrection is real!  It is the beginning of the believer’s experience of the great everlasting sunshine of heaven! 

The mention of “sunshine” suggests an illustration for the resurrection.  What I have in mind is the eclipse of the sun. In 2006, many people witnessed the total eclipse of the sun, and a few years thereafter some people saw the partial eclipse of the sun.  In each case, the darkness was for only a few minutes.  Beloved, eternal life is like the sun; and the resurrection is like the glorious re-appearance of sunshine.  In this case, the sufferings and challenges of this life are like the momentary darkness of a partial eclipse and even death is but a brief dark period of a total eclipse.

This was well understood by the mother and her seven sons in the first reading: they believed that the pains of torture and even death at the hands of their oppressors were but brief moments of darkness compared to the great light of the resurrection which shines forth forever.  For this reason, they were ready to be tortured to death one after the other.

Motivated by the everlasting life that comes with the resurrection, the first son boldly told his torturers: “What do you expect to achieve by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our forefathers.”  In his turn, the second son said: “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for his laws that we are dying.”

After him the third son bravely held out his hands, as he spoke these noble words: “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of His laws, I disdain them; from Him I hope to receive them again.” When the fourth son was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by Him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

Like these brothers and their mother, we also experience difficulties or challenges in our lives.  Sometimes, we are challenged to choose between “that which is socially acceptable” and faithfulness to God; between keeping our job and faithfulness to God; between an illegal means to success and faithfulness to God; etc.  Often however, unlike the mother and her seven brothers, we do not experience physical torture or a real threat of death.  Nonetheless, we choose the easy path and break our relationship with God! Today, the Lord God is exhorting us to be motivated by the heroic story of the first reading.

Like the mother and her sons, may our faith and hope in the resurrection enable us to see every challenge or suffering in our life and even death as the mere brief darkness of an eclipse; and may we stand victoriously as we witness the passing away of this darkness, while the everlasting sunshine of heaven re-appears gloriously! Amen!

By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis

Bishop John Kobina Louis

Most Rev. John Kobina Louis is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana. More about him here.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the Liturgical Year by Most Rev. John Kobina Louis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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