In the 1980s there was a musical and movie titled “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” A production written about today’s gospel might be titled, “One Bride for Seven Brothers.” Such a show might not fare any better at the box office than did “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” though!
The scenario of the seven brothers each in turn taking the same bride seems far-fetched. Indeed, it was a very contrived story in Jesus’ time, too. The sole purpose of the Sadducees in making up this story was to trap Jesus. They had just tried to catch him up with the question of giving tribute to Caesar. Jesus eluded the trap and left them speechless.
The Sadducees did not accept resurrection in an afterlife. They tried to get Jesus to say that there was no resurrection because this woman would have seven husbands and that was against the law and couldn’t be allowed by God in the afterlife.
Of course Jesus saw through their scheme. In his response, Jesus gives an insight into what resurrected life is about. It is not giving and taking in marriage. It is not about limitation or dying. Resurrected life is about “being alive.” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had all gone before. But God is their God even now. God is their God in this life and in the life-to-come.
The first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees tells the story of a mother and seven sons who willingly suffered and died because of their trust in resurrected life in God. In that passage, the mother says eloquently, “…the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised 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.”
“The Creator of the world… who devised the origin of all things…” – gives us the context. As Jesus said, “God…is not God of the dead but of the living, for to him all are alive.” From the moment of creation, all are alive in God. All are called to remain alive in God.
These Sundays we are coming to the conclusion of the Church year and the conclusion of the Year of Mercy. Today’s readings also call to our minds the conclusion of our own years on this earth. They remind us of the unlimited mercy God has for us in this life and that comes to fruition in life with God forever.
The hope we have for eternal life in Jesus Christ is not a “pie in the sky when you die” kind of thing. It’s not a “just rough it out here because there will be a big reward in the end.” No, we have God’s accompaniment in Christ all the way through this life, not just at life’s completion. We are assured of this through our baptism into Christ. Because we are human and limited, we may not always have a “sense” of the presence of God as we go through life. We may even experience something of a “dark night of the soul.” That doesn’t mean that God is not with us and in us. Even Jesus Christ at the end of his earthly life called out, “Father, why have you abandoned me?” In those times, like the mother and sons in the Second Book of Maccabees, we hang on, trusting in the mercy of God.
Since Christ’s coming among us, we now see in him the mercy of God and have firm hope for our continuing life forever in God – with the assurance of his accompaniment all along the way.