Day 304: Life Beyond Death
2 Maccabees 7:1-42 One of the best-known passages from the Books of Maccabees is this account of the martyrdom of a mother and her seven sons. The willingness to sacrifice one’s life rather than transgress the Law and Commandments is a frequent theme in Maccabees. Despite torture, the entire family remained faithful and offered the supreme sacrifice of their love and fidelity.
Ch 7:9-29 We have died for his laws: Abiding in the truth as expressed by obedience to God’s Law often requires considerable sacrifice of comfort, popularity, and even life itself. The ultimate witness to the truth is martyrdom, which is the most convincing argument that God is the absolute good. (CCC 992, 1680)
Ch 7:22-29 The mother’s encouragement of her sons in the face of death provides a powerful witness to faith in God the Creator and hints at a perfect happiness in the afterlife. God alone creates out of nothing and keeps everything in existence. The mother trusted and marveled at the life-giving power of God, leading her to place great hope in his mercy in rewarding her sons for their fidelity to the Commandments. (CCC 296-297)
Ch 7:28 The mother’s private encouragement to her youngest son was even more explicit in revealing her future hope. This belief in the resurrection stirred up the hope that God might reunite her family in a new life after death. God who created us out of love could certainly reward us with the fullness of life. (CCC 297, 992)
Wisdom 3:1-19 In one of the first instances in the Old Testament, the author elaborates on the nature of the afterlife both for the righteous and for the sinful. The righteous can look forward with hope to a bountiful reward in the Kingdom of God for their virtuous life and patience in suffering, while the evil, who despise wisdom, will know no happiness in this life and will receive punishment in the next according to their evil deeds. (CCC 1878, 2007)
Ch 3:5-6 Disciplined them: God disciplines his people as a father lovingly disciplines his children with the purpose of freeing them from vice and forming them in virtue. We are tested and purified through trials and tribulations just as metal is refined in a furnace. (CCC 696, 2223)
Ch 3:9 It is most reasonable to give full assent to God’s infinite wisdom and love as expressed in his Divine Revelation, which is contained in Scripture together with Tradition. The authority of God is the inspiration for a life of faith, expressed in thoughts and actions that are in accordance with his commands. (CCC 154, 176-177)
Ch 4:1-16 The spiritual life is meant to start from a person’s earliest years and grow with him or her through adulthood and into old age. Wisdom, however, does not depend on age as much as the sincere and ongoing quest to grow in holiness. Confirmation is a Sacrament that congers special graces so an individual can grow in spiritual maturity and fortitude. (CCC 1308, 1833-1834)
Ch 4:7-16 In the face of heavenly reward, an early death is a blessing. This book suggests that God, in his infinite wisdom, may call a righteous person out of this world to spare that person from temptation to sin that might imperil salvation. The richness and value of a life is not determined by age but by holiness expressed in charity. Many saints of the Church, including Paul, expressed a desire for death since they yearned to be with Christ and were eager to contemplate God face to face. (CCC 1011)
Ch 4:17-20 The wicked will be judged on account of their sins and, thereby, deprived of a glorious new life in Heaven. (CCC 1035)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
The second story concerns a mother and her seven sons, who were subjected to torture and killed cruelly for refusing to break the Torah by eating swine’s flesh.
The sons repeatedly proclaim that they are willing to die for faithfulness to God’s law: “we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers” (2 Mc 7:2), “we have died for his laws” (2 Mc 7:9), “because of his laws” (2 Mc 7:11), and “I obey the command of the law that was given to our fathers through Moses” (2 Mc 7:30).
Before his death, the sixth son proclaims: For we are suffering these things on our own account, because of our sins against our own God. Therefore astounding things have happened. (2 Mc 7:18).
The martyrs did not see their subjugation to Antiochus IV as a consequence of their political weakness per se, but rather as a result of their unfaithfulness to the covenant.
Despite the attempts of the pagan rulers to undermine the Jews’ fidelity to the Torah that Ezra had worked so tirelessly to reestablish, many Jews chose to submit to torture and death rather than to commit apostasy.
These martyrs lived a life of fidelity to the covenant and its laws, and like Daniel and countless others before them, they confessed their sins and the sins of their fathers, begging God’s mercy.
Drawing Down God’s Mercy
One of the most striking features in the account of the martyrdom of the mother and her seven sons in 2 Maccabees 7 is that these martyrs believed that their suffering, which was brought upon them because of their fidelity to God’s law, would bring about the redemption of the nation.
In the words of the youngest and last of the sons to be killed: “I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty which has justly fallen on our whole nation.” (2 Mc 7:37-38, emphasis added).
It is of paramount importance to note that the mother and her sons thought of their suffering as redemptive acts that would bring down the mercy of God upon Israel and end the chastisement that had come upon their people because of their national infidelity.
This conviction is emphasized by the literary strategy of 2 Maccabees.
The accounts of martyrdom are inserted into the story of Judas Maccabeus so as to “interrupt” its progression, as the following summary illustrates: – Judas and his followers withdraw to the wilderness. (2 Mc 5:27) – The martyrdom of Eleazar and the mother and her sons. (2 Mc 6-7) – Judas and his followers launch the revolt. (2 Mc 8:1ff.)
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
So yesterday we had the story of Eleazar, who was willing to be a martyr rather than abandon the Law of his fathers
Today we have the story of her seven sons who are seven brothers
The story is a bit graphic when it comes to their martyrdom
So for those of you who need a heads-up before PG-13 scenes....there you go
IT IS AN INCREDIBLE STORY OF FAITHFULNESS!!
You know your kids if you are listening with your kids
So today was kind of a PG-13 Day when it comes to 2 Maccabees Ch 7
It is one of Fr. Mike’s favorite chapters in Maccabees
Not because of the torture and violence
But because of the FAITHFULNESS
IT IS JUST REMARKABLE!!
We’ve talked about this before, but in 1 Maccabees there is FIGHTING
In 2 Maccabees, there is WITNESSING
If 1 Maccabees is all about WARRIORS then 2 Maccabees is all about WITNESSES
We will get to warriors in 2 Maccabees too, don’t worry
This is ABSOLUTELY KEY and ABSOLUTELY CLEAR
It’s so hard to begin to even talk about the WITNESS of these seven brothers and their mom
The WITNESS is not simply to the faithfulness they are called to
Fr. Mike talked about this in a homily not too long ago
THEY WERE SO BOLD AND UNWILLING TO COMPROMISE
Think about this…
With Eleazar yesterday and the mother and her seven sons
It was all over a piece of pork
“If you eat a piece of bacon, you get to go home. That’s it. That is all you have to do.”
Just make ONE VIOLATION of the Law
THAT IS IT
Just COMPROMISE ONE TIME and you have the REST OF YOUR LIFE to spend being faithful to the Lord
That invitation, that temptation to compromise was absolutely and irrefutably REJECTED by these men and their mom
When I think the second brother comes forward and...
2 Maccabees 7:7-8, “‘Will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?’ He replied in the language of his fathers, and said to them, ‘No.’”
JUST FLAT OUT NO
In the New American Bible translation it says, “NEVER!” (Just like Luke said when Darth Vader threatened to turn Princess Leia to the Dark Side 🤓)
It’s not JUST about their faithfulness
We need to PAY ATTENTION to this
These Deuterocanonical Books give us so much Christian theology
What Fr. Mike means by that, you might have noticed that over the last 300+ DAYS there is not a lot of talk of the AFTERLIFE
In Judaism there wasn’t a lot of emphasis on life after death when the Old Testament was being written
You go down to SHEOL
You go down to the ABODE OF THE DEAD
In these Deuterocanonical Books, GOD GIVES A REVELATION
The revelation is the RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
Remember the Pharisees and the Sadducees had a couple of differences
One of those differences was that the Pharisees believed in the Resurrection of the Dead
The Sadducees did not
That’s why they were SAD U C? (Golfclap, Fr. Mike, well done 🤪)
Here in Maccabees and in Wisdom we see this proclamation of the fact that we believe in the RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
WE BELIEVE IN LIFE AFTER DEATH
Which is NOT EMPHASISED in much of the other scriptures in the Old Testament
So there is this REVELATION HERE
Every one of these men and their mom can come forward with confidence and faith
KNOWING THAT THIS IS NOT THE END!!
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT FOR US!!
In our day and age, we are surrounded by people and sometimes it affects our hearts because we see THIS world THIS life as the ONLY world and the ONLY life
AS OPPOSED TO REALIZING…
No, this is a REAL LIFE
This is a REAL WORLD
It is good
God made it
It is a gift to us
THIS IS NOT THE ONLY WORLD
THIS IS NOT THE ONLY LIFE
This is almost, you could say, this is PRE-LIFE
Yes it’s real life obviously
IT IS PRE-LIFE
We are made for this world, but we are not made for this world
We are made for this world in the same way that a car is made for the road
The road gets you to the destination
Here is this world that has been given to us
IT IS NOT OUR ULTIMATE HOME!!
In 2 Maccabees and Wisdom this is reiterated again and again
Two quick notes, the first about 2 Maccabees
At the end of 2 Maccabees Ch 7 there is something SO POWERFUL
So after these seven men die and their mom die
2 Maccabees 7:42, “Let this be enough, then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures.”
Here’s another translation that basically says, “Ok, that’s enough.”
That’s what they’re saying here
We’re not talking about these tortures to excite anybody
We are talking about them because of the WITNESS that was given
There’s something about that that is just SO POWERFUL
Because we realize here that the AUTHOR HIMSELF was moved
It is also hopefully US AS THE LISTENERS, AS READERS, AS STUDENTS OF GOD’S WORD, are also moved
Enough then about this violence, about this death and destruction
But in the Wisdom of Solomon…
YOU GUYS OH MY GOSH!!
Wisdom 3:1-8, “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction, but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;” like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of the visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble. They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever.”
THIS IS SO KEY
This is one of Fr. Mike’s favorite reading for a funeral
Wisdom Ch 3
Listen to Fr. Mike read it again
IT IS WORTH US TO MEDIATE ON THIS
It is such a powerful WORD on not just how we view death as Christians
How we also view what God’s involvement is in this
OH GOSH YOU GUYS!!
THIS IS SO SO IMPORTANT!!
It talks about OUR HOPE
OUR HOPE AS CHRISTIANS
OUR HOPE FOR ETERNAL LIFE
It also talks about a PURIFICATION PROCESS 🤔😉
We will get that even more in 2 Maccabees Ch 12 when there is a PURIFICATION PROCESS after death that as Catholics and Orthodox, we call it PURGATORY
A PLACE OF PURIFICATION
There are things that our heart are attached to IN THIS LIFE that they CANNOT BE ATTACHED TO in ETERNAL LIFE
So there is this process, a PURIFICATION, where God ALLOWS us to be made READY FOR HEAVEN
So here’s this piece here...2 Maccabees 3:6-7, “...like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them. In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble.”
That sense of being PURIFIED is SO POWERFUL
The reality of death and how we as Christians must see death is talked about later on
If you were in the Old Testament, for the most part if you wanted to be blessed...some signs of blessing are old age or a lot of kids
Now, those are real blessings
In our culture we may not see children as blessings as much as liabilities
Ok they are liabilities in some ways
At the same time, even more so are they BLESSINGS
Even more so is a long life a BLESSING
IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY
IN LIGHT OF IMMORTALITY
IN LIGHT OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD…
Wisdom 3:13, “...For blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union; she will have fruit when God examines souls.”
Here is a woman who doesn’t have any children
She is BLESSED if she is RIGHTEOUS or VIRTUOUS
Wisdom 3:14, “Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed.”
Imagine in that Old Testament, Jewish culture, a eunuch was made incapable of having children and they would be seen as second class citizens
Fr. Mike believes it is the case that a eunuch could not participate fully in the worship in the Temple
Here is GOD’S WORD
Wisdom 3:14, “Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed, and who has not devised wicked things against the Lord; for special favor will be shown him for his faithfulness, and a place of great delight in the temple of the Lord.”
This is the part of the Wisdom
When we don’t have The Book of Wisdom in our CANON, we lose so much of the WISDOM OF GOD, the INSPIRED WORD OF GOD
Sorry, Fr. Mike is exasperated
But at the same time, it is SUCH A GIFT TO US
Wisdom 3:17-18, “Even if they live long [those who are evil] they will be held of no account, and finally their old age will be without honor....”
It goes on to say, “Better to die young as a righteous person than to live a long life as an unrighteous person.”
BECAUSE OF ETERNITY!!
BECAUSE THERE IS MORE TO THIS LIFE THAN JUST THIS LIFE
THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN JUST THIS LIFE
Does that make sense?
It is SO IMPORTANT to realize here we are in 2 Maccabees and Wisdom that gives us, as Christians, SUCH A LENS for looking at this life
One of the key things to take away is this…
THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN JUST THIS LIFE, BUT GOD HAS US IN THE PALM OF HIS HANDS!!
So that means that even if we have a short life, better a short life lived RIGHTEOUSLY and VIRTUOUSLY than a long life SQUANDERED
Better to be childless than it is to be unrighteous or vicious
At the same time, CHILDREN ARE A BLESSING
LONG LIFE IS A BLESSING
So we pray for all those things
We pray for children for those couples that long for children
We pray for long life for all of us and for those who long for a long life
Above everything else, the HIGHEST PRIORITY, the HIGHEST VALUE…
IS GOD HIMSELF!!
Better a short life where we CHOOSE GOD than a long life where we DON’T CHOOSE GOD
Does that make sense?
I hope that makes sense
What a day!!
What an incredible gift we have been given today with our readings
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise. Thank you so much. Gosh, Lord God, thank you for faithfulness. Thank you for your faithfulness. Help us. Help us to know how to be faithful to you. Help us to know when it is time to give witness to you. Help us to know when it is time to stand strong. Heop us to know when it is time to declare your goodness and your Mighty Works in our lives every day. Lord God, sometimes it is difficult to know how to speak about you. Difficult to know when to stand strong. Difficult to know when it’s time to be quiet. But help us to walk in wisdom. Help us to live in your will. Help us to always do everything we can to accomplish your will in our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”