Gospel according to Luke (20:27-38)
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 out ‘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.”
Today’s First Reading narrates the inspirational story of seven martyr-brothers and their brave mother who endured a fierce religious persecution from the pagan Seleucid kings two centuries before the birth of Christ. They remained faithful to their monotheistic religion; they noted that it was their choice “to die at the hands of men with the God-given hope of being restored to life.” This is an early expression of “resurrection faith,” which is also a central theme of today’s Gospel.
Have you ever asked yourself: Would I be willing to die for my faith in Christ? Probably, we will never have to face this choice in our life. A more realistic question is: How can I truly live my faith commitment on a daily basis? If we practice our faith well, serving our needy brothers and sisters, then a faith-filled death will almost naturally follow. Here we can draw strength and inspiration from one of the Church’s significant, contemporary saints, Oscar Romero.
Saint Oscar Romero. As Archbishop of San Salvador in Central America, Romero was assassinated on March 24,1980 as he was celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence cancer hospital where he lived. On February 3, 2015 Pope Francis officially declared Romero a martyr of the Catholic faith; he was beatified on May 23, 2015 and canonized on October 14, 2018 (only one year ago)! Romero was known, respected, and loved as a defender of the poor during one of the most difficult periods in El Salvador (1970s-1980s), during which five priests, numerous catechists, and countless Catholic laity were assassinated.
The living example and prophetic words of Romero are always relevant, always a challenge to live our faith. He explained the meaning of the “social message” that he in the name of the Church was preaching, especially to the poor: “The hope we preach to the poor is in order that dignity be restored to them, and to give them courage to be themselves, the authors of their destiny. In a word, the Church has not only turned toward poor persons, but makes them the privileged recipient of her mission…. The Church has not only embodied herself in the world of the poor, giving them hope, but she is firmly committed to their defense.” Pope Francis never tires of repeating:”I want a Church which is poor and for the poor” (Evangelii Gaudium 198).
Romero’s Faith Vision. Romero has eloquently expressed his deep faith in Christ and resurrected life after death: “If God accepts the sacrifice of my life, may my death be for the freedom of my people. A bishop will die, but the Church of God, which is the people, will never perish. I do not believe in death without resurrection. If they kill me, I will rise again in the people of El Salvador.” Undoubtedly, Romero’s words clearly echo the same resurrection faith expressed in today’s scripture readings.
Reflection. What should “living our resurrection faith” and “remembering Saint Oscar Romero” mean for us today? This means to become active, to continue his work, to witness to our resurrection faith, to promote social justice. As a martyr of the Church’s option for the poor, Saint Oscar Romero is truly an inspiring “contemporary icon” for all of us, members of the servant-Church.
– Fr. James H. Kroeger, MM