“The Wise Ones Told Us Who To Follow and Stoned Us If We Refused.” (Christians have always rejected this — and accepted it if it was there fate.)
Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 RV 11:4-12
Here are my two witnesses:
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands
that stand before the Lord of the earth.
If anyone wants to harm them, fire comes out of their mouths
and devours their enemies.
In this way, anyone wanting to harm them is sure to be slain.
They have the power to close up the sky
so that no rain can fall during the time of their prophesying.
They also have power to turn water into blood
and to afflict the earth with any plague as often as they wish.When they have finished their testimony,
the beast that comes up from the abyss
will wage war against them and conquer them and kill them.
Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city,
which has the symbolic names “Sodom” and “Egypt,”
where indeed their Lord was crucified.
Those from every people, tribe, tongue, and nation
will gaze on their corpses for three and a half days,
and they will not allow their corpses to be buried.
The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them
and be glad and exchange gifts
because these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.
But after the three and a half days,
a breath of life from God entered them.
When they stood on their feet, great fear fell on those who saw them.
Then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, “Come up here.”
So they went up to heaven in a cloud as their enemies looked on.
Responsorial Psalm PS 144:1, 2, 9-10
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
My mercy and my fortress,
my stronghold, my deliverer,
My shield, in whom I trust,
who subdues my people under me.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
O God, I will sing a new song to you;
with a ten stringed lyre I will chant your praise,
You who give victory to kings,
and deliver David, your servant from the evil sword.
R. Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!
Alleluia SEE 2 TM 1:10
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The question of the Sadducees by Harold Copping
Gospel LK 20:27-40
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection,
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 ‘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.”
Some of the scribes said in reply,
“Teacher, you have answered well.”
And they no longer dared to ask him anything.
St. Stephen Getting Stoned — It Had a Different Meaning Then — “For my sake you will be brought to trial before rulers and kings, to tell the good news to them and to the Gentiles.” (Mt 10:18)
The Bible is pretty clear that bad things often happen when mobs decide what is right and wrong.
Each of us must decide for ourselves — and for many human beings, that is terribly difficult. Deciding for ourselves between right and wrong, ignoring our friends, the ones with money, and others who may entire us — that is The Way. Ancient teachers used to say, “It is written.”
There’s a song entitled, “Ain’t that a Kick in The Head.” Not sure it applies here. But it is better than most of the conventional wisdom swirling around….
Commentary on Luke 20:27-40 From Living Space
Today we move on to the middle of chapter 20. In previous passages which are not included in these readings, Jesus had rebutted a challenge to his authority and left his critics literally speechless. This was followed by his speaking a parable about tenant farmers. He was clearly referring to his questioners and identifying them with the wicked tenants who abused all the emissaries (the prophets) sent by the owner of the vineyard and culminated in the killing of his son. The identity of the tenants and of the Son is clear. This is followed by Jesus being confronted with a seemingly innocuous question about paying taxes to Caesar which again resulted in the silence of his critics.
Today another group, the Sadducees, thought they might do better. The Sadducees, among whom were numbered some of the most powerful Jewish leaders, including high priests, restricted their beliefs to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, reputedly written by Moses and containing the essence of the Jewish Law. For that reason, unlike the Pharisees, they did not accept some beliefs which occur only in later books of the Old Testament. Among these, for instance, were the existence of angels and the resurrection of the dead.
The Sadducees thought then they could stump Jesus with an unanswerable conundrum. They first quote a prescription from the Law of Moses by which a man was expected to marry the wife of his eldest brother, if there had been no children by the marriage. They then propose an imagined situation of seven brothers. The first married but was childless, so in accordance with the requirements of the Law the second married the widow, then the third and so on. Eventually, all seven brothers married the woman but there were still no children.
The unanswerable question they proposed was that, if there really was a resurrection after death, which of the seven men would be the woman’s husband in the next life? For them, there was no problem; they did not believe in the resurrection. Death was the end of everything. For one who believed in the resurrection, it was an embarrassing difficulty – or so they thought.
Jesus quickly brushes the problem aside. To begin with, in the next life there are no marriage relationships. “The children of this age [i.e. those who belong this world] 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”.
In the new life, all live face to face with God in a life that never ends. All are equally children of God, brothers and sisters to each other, taking their life and existence from him. That is now the focus of their relationship and it is through that relationship that they are bound together.
Jesus then goes on to challenge the Sadducees’ unbelief about life after death. He shrewdly quotes from a part of the Bible which they recognise as true. He reminds them of the scene where the voice from the burning bush identifies itself to Moses. “I AM the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). God, says Jesus, is the God of the living and not of the dead [i.e. of those who no longer exist]. If Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are alive then the Sadducees’ argument falls. Perhaps we would not be convinced by such an argument but it clearly worked in this case.
Some scribes who were listening in were delighted at the refutation of the Sadducees. Most of them were Pharisees and believed in the resurrection. At the same time, after these replies of Jesus to both the Pharisees and the Sadducees, “they no longer dared to ask him anything”.
We, of course, believe in the resurrection not so much because of Jesus’ arguments here but because of his own resurrection and his promise to share his life with us forever.
In the gospel today, we read of the Sadducees approaching Jesus with an enigma regarding the woman who married seven brothers of the same family. For “at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?” It is significant that Jesus did not allow them to sidetrack the real issue, which was faith in the resurrection. The apparent conundrum presented by them was just a trick to discredit the doctrine of the resurrection. Explaining that life in the next world is quite different from earthly life, Jesus underscored that faith in the resurrection is authenticated by the very fact that “Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.”
Similarly when Christians read the book of Revelation, they like to speculate on the images and symbols used by the author of Revelation as if they are ciphers on the future of the world. Many have tried to link the figures and symbols with current events and world leaders of our times. Of course, one can always read into the symbols and come out with all kinds of vain predictions about the future of humanity and the world. By so doing, they miss out the real message of what the author wants to convey to his readers. In truth he was not giving us predictions of events in the future. Rather, he was writing at a time when the Church was under the persecution of the Romans. This also explains why he had to use a literary form which we call apocalyptic language which employs biblical and historical imagery familiar to the readers at that time.
Simply put then, his message was intended to assure his fellow Christians who were suffering for their faith under the Romans that they would not die and even if they did, they would be given eternal life. They would be raised to life and evil would eventually be conquered. “After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.” The three-and-a-half days refer to the trials of life but they too would share in the resurrection of Christ as reiterated in the gospel. The enemies would eventually come to realize that they could not destroy the Church and the witnesses of Christ, for God is the ruler over all.
The responsorial psalm joyfully declares that God is the Rock. He is “my mercy and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, my shield, in whom I trust, who subdues my people under me.” It is He “who give victory to kings, and deliver David, your servant from the evil sword.” Indeed, the 1260 days (that is, three-and-a-half years) signifying the time of trials of the Church, will be overcome by Christ. The Church will not be vanquished by the forces of evil. Rather the Church and the saints of God and the martyrs will be victorious at the end.
In the light of this message of hope, we must therefore take into account that Christianity is not meant for the weak and for cowards. Christ has come to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. A Christianity that is too comfortable, where everything is smooth sailing, where there are no trials, no challenges, where the status quo remains all the time, and everything is institutionalized, is no longer the Church that Jesus came to establish. The stark reality is that the gospel cannot but become the conscience of society, a pain to those who do not want to hear the truth and a nuisance to a secular world that proclaims a freedom without authentic freedom but a new form of slavery.
Isn’t this what the author is warning us Christians when he wrote, “When they have completed their witnessing, the beast that comes out of the Abyss is going to make war on them and overcome them and kill them … Men out of every people, race, language and nation will stare at their corpses, for three-and-a-half days, not letting them be buried, and the people of the world will be glad about it and celebrate the event by giving presents to each other, because these two prophets have been a plague to the people of the world.”
Yes, the world is very hostile towards Christianity, especially Catholics, because of our stance against the secular values that promote a culture of death in all its forms, a permissive culture that does not respect the dignity of the person, especially of women and the young, the ethics of business and science, the rights of the marginalized, the poor and the migrants. Besides the global dimension of persecution, as individual Catholics, we too face persecution in terms of trying to live a life according to the gospel values. Whether at home, in the office or even in Church, we know how difficult it is for us to be true to what we believe in as temptations are many. Striving to grow in holiness and live a life of integrity is our constant trial as we fight against the temptations and the seductive ways of the Evil One.
In our discouragement, let us take heart that we have the prophets and Christian martyrs before us who showed the way. The two olive trees and the two lamps refer to the witnesses of the gospel. In the Old Testament we have of course Moses and Elijah. The author recalls the powers that were given to both of them when he reminisced that “Fire can come from their mouths and consume their enemies if anyone tries to harm them; and if anybody does try to harm them he will certainly be killed in this way. They are able to lock up the sky so that it does not rain as long as they are prophesying; they are able to turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague as often as they like.” These miracles were of course worked by both Moses and Elijah, the greatest prophets of the Old Testament era. Moses was the one who could “turn water into blood and strike the whole world with any plague”. Elijah brought about drought when King Ahab refused to obey the voice of God.
In the Christian dispensation, the two witnesses personify the Christian apostles, Peter and Paul; both were killed in the Great City of Rome and many other apostles like St Stephen were killed in Jerusalem. “Their corpses will lie in the main street of the Great City known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem was therefore likened to Sodom because of its immorality and Rome to Egypt because of its worldliness.
Indeed, we are called to be like the apostles, to be courageous in the face of persecution when we proclaim the truth about God and the sin of the world. Like them, as the olive trees of God, that is precious in His sight, God will see us through in all our trials and win the victory for us. We must remain focused and have our sights not just on this world but in the final victory that will be won by Christ Himself. The New Heaven and the New Earth will eventually be realized and be brought about by Christ Himself.
Let the symbol of the three-and-a-half years, that is, half of seven, which therefore means incompleteness, teach us patience. We must be patient especially when we see how the Church is suffering today, especially from all the scandals and sins in the Church and without. It is a blessing in disguise, for once again the Church under persecution is being purified of her sins. She will in time to come be truly a bride for Christ, pure, holy and spotless. So we must not be discouraged in the meantime but struggle on in the proclamation of the gospel. With faith and confidence like the prophets and the apostles before us, God assures us that we would not be killed until we have finished our work. God is faithful to us. And even if we are killed in our body, He will raise us to everlasting life with Him forever.
Tags: Blessed be the Lord my Rock, Jesus Christ, Lk 20:27-40, November 19 2016, Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death and brought life to light through the Gospel., Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 144, rv 11:4-12, The question of the Sadducees by Harold Copping, TM 1:10