“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.”
Prayer for Trust in Jesus
St. Ignatius of Loyola
O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things, in Christ our Lord. Amen.
Almighty and merciful God,
graciously keep from us all adversity,
so that, unhindered in mind and body alike,
we may pursue in freedom of heart,
the things that are yours.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14
It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested
and tortured with whips and scourges by the king,
to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.
One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said:
“What do you expect to achieve by questioning us?
We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”
At the point of death he said:
“You accursed fiend, 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 suffered their cruel sport.
He put out his tongue at once when told to do so,
and 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.”
Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man’s courage,
because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.
After he had died,
they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way.
When he 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.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 922 From apostolic times Christian virgins1 and widows2, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective status of virginity or perpetual chastity “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”3
1 Cf. Cor 7:34-36.
2 Cf. John Paul II, Vita consecrata 7.
3 Mt 19:12
The example of these seven sons who, in the presence of one another and in the presence of their loving mother, were one by one slowly martyred for their faith, is an example that deserves to be forever preserved (and it is) in the annals of human history. Whether they expressed in words all that the inspired author attributes to them is not of great importance. They certainly expressed it in their pious and patient acceptance of their tortures at the hands of irreligious and inhuman tyrants. They were sustained and strengthened in their suffering by the pious exhortations of their truly loyal and faith-inspired mother. More especially were they sustained by the firm conviction that the God of the universe, the God of justice and love, for whose laws they were losing their earthly lives, had a glorious and eternal life in store for them.
Millions of Christians have died as noble martyrs for their faith, down through the ages. There are millions who are suffering slow martyrdom for that same faith today. They, however, had and have the example of Christ, the Son of God made man, who suffered the slow and cruel martyrdom of crucifixion for their takes. So in a sense the mother and seven brothers of today’s reading deserve greater admiration. However, it was the same God who gave the necessary grace to all martyrs. It is in the presence of that same God that all Jewish and Christian martyrs, and others who have died for conscience sake, are enjoying together their eternal reward today.
All of these are held up to us for our admiration, and we must indeed admire them. The atheist who has esteem for intellectual integrity and uprightness must admire one who is willing to sacrifice his life in defence of his convictions. However, for us Christians, admiration is not enough. Attempted imitation, at least is necessary. We may shrink now from the thought of ever having to face even half of what our martyrs suffered. They, too, most probably shivered at the very thought of what awaited them. But when the moment of trial came the grace of God gave them all the strength they needed. God’s grace would also come to our aid, if ever we were called on to suffer and die for our faith. Our only sure guarantee, however, is the present strength and meaningfulness of our faith in our daily lives.
There were many Jews in the days of the Maccabees who gave up their faith when the persecution began. There were many Christians, too, who went over to the enemy in order to save their earthly lives and property. There are many leaders of the anti-God and anti-Christian campaign today, who were once Christians of a kind. No martyr ever died willingly for a cause in which he did not believe. No Christian ever died for the faith unless he believed firmly in it and lived his daily life in accordance with its precepts.
This is a test which we can all apply to ourselves. We need not ask ourselves whether we would willingly accept torture and death for the sake of our faith. We must, however, ask ourselves if we are willingly and truly living that faith in our daily lives. That in itself is not an easy, painless effort for any one of us. For some it is one prolonged martyrdom. But think of the firm convictions that strengthened that Jewish mother and her seven sons. These convictions should be more firmly established still in the minds of all true Christians. If we are loyal to God, he will reward us. If we are faithful to his laws, he will be true to his promises. If, when called on to do so, we give our earthly lives for his sake, he has an eternal life of unending joy and happiness ready for us when we close our eyes in death.
Ps 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
My steps have been steadfast in your paths,
my feet have not faltered.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Keep me as the apple of your eye,
hide me in the shadow of your wings.
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking I shall be content in your presence.
Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
2 Thes 2:16-3:5
Brothers and sisters:
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,
who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement
and good hope through his grace,
encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed
Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us,
so that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified,
as it did among you,
and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people,
for not all have faith.
But the Lord is faithful;
he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
We are confident of you in the Lord that what we instruct you,
you are doing and will continue to do.
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God
and to the endurance of Christ.
St. Paul was a man of God and one full of human understanding. He knew and appreciated the difficulties that converts from paganism to Christianity had to endure. He was ever ready to help them. He tells them that he is begging Christ, and God the Father, to console and strengthen them so that they may continue to live their faith.
He then asks for their prayers. These prayers are not for any personal needs of his own, and he had temporal and spiritual needs, but that the Gospel, the word of the Lord, might make progress, might reach out to more and more people. He is making this very same request of us today, through this reading from his Epistle.
We are living in one of the most troubled periods of man’s history on earth. A great part of our world has made immense progress in science, technology, medicine and other branches of learning, has raised the standard of living, increased the comforts of life and lengthened life expectancy. Yet, man’s social conscience has not kept pace with his material improvement. In fact, individual men and whole nations, have become more selfish and less inclined to take a human interest in their less fortunate neighbors.
There are millions living in destitution, not only in the underdeveloped parts of our globe but amidst the wealth and luxury of the richer nations too. Communism has been proposed and is being put into action in parts of the world as a cure for the unequal distribution of this world’s goods. However, the poor and the powerless under communism find that they have exchanged one set of selfish masters for a more selfish and more merciless set of tyrants. The theory of the common ownership of all things is based on the false premise that all men are equally honest, and that each will play his full part in producing the goods necessary for all. A more basic error still in the communist theory, is that man’s life ends like the cow or the ass, in the grave. There is no God and therefore no future life according to the communist preachers. If that theory were true, by what right could the rulers expect honesty, truth, self-sacrifice, brotherly love, from their subjects? If there is no higher law-giver and no higher ruler than the whip of the slave-driver, why should any sane man exert himself or put himself out to provide for the common good, as long as he can escape the eye of the whip-holder? What have men in common, if they are no different and have no higher end or purpose in life, than that of a herd of cattle in a field? What basis is this for brotherly love or interest in one’s neighbor?
Bad philosophy and worse theology can never cure this world’s ills. We need the truths of Christianity put into daily practise by rich and by poor, by nations as well as by individuals. All men on earth are adopted sons of God. All men on earth are brothers of one another, because they are brothers of Christ who became one of us, in order to bring all of us into the family of God. We must let these basic truths govern our lives and our actions. We must do all in our power to give the knowledge of these truths of the Christian faith to all the nations of the earth. St. Paul asks us today, to pray that this will come to pass. We must listen to his request. We should never allow a day to pass without fervently begging God to spread his kingdom throughout the whole world.
We must also give the lesson of good example to all those with whom we come in contact. We must take an active part and give whatever aid we can to those truly Christian societies which are working so hard to improve the lot of the underprivileged at home and abroad. We must exert our Christian influence on public opinion and on national politics. It should not be the success of one particular party that should interest us but the Christian principles of our public representatives. If the Christian nations were truly Christian, brotherly love would spread out from them to the whole world. The causes of unrest and strife within nations would be removed. Fear of aggression among nations would gradually disappear. Vast sums wasted on weapons of war could be spent in the improvement of the underprivileged nations.
The greatest need of our world today is a return to the open acknowledgement of the Fatherhood of God and the true brotherhood of all men. When these basic truths penetrate the social consciences of men and of nations, we can expect an end to hatred and division, to wars and to the wanton destruction of the gifts which God gave us. He gave us these to make our lives less difficult and more productive of good works.
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.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.1
1 Cf. Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3891; Lk 20:36; Dan 10:9- 12.
We can thank the Sadducees today. They came to our Lord with what they thought was a case that would make the doctrine of the resurrection look very ridiculous. It would have appeared so, if it were understood in the crude sense which they gave it, namely, that we would come forth again from the grave in the very same bodies which we now have, with all their needs and instincts.
Our Lord corrected that erroneous idea. We shall all rise to a new and eternal life, in a form and an existence very different from that of our present life. Thus, the question of ownership of wives or property will not, and cannot, arise in our new life. He gave us a brief but basic description of what our risen bodies will be. I am sure that most of us would love to know a lot more about what our future state will be like. But if we knew all, then where would our faith and trust in God come in? Some saints are said to have had brief visions of the joys of heaven. They wanted to die immediately in order to get there. God wants each one of us to earn heaven, by living our life on earth, and trusting in his word that heaven will be our eternal home if we do our part here below.
In his brief answer to the Sadducees, Christ gives us the essential facts concerning our future status. First, he affirms that all those who have proved themselves worthy while in this life will rise to an eternal life. In that life we will become like angels. We will not be angels, pure spirits without bodies, but we will be like them in that our bodies will become “spiritual.” They will lose all the restrictions and limitations imposed on them now, as mere material composites. They will no longer be subject to decline and decay as they now are. Therefore, they can never suffer from pain or sickness or weakness of any sort.
Second, he clearly affirmed that those risen from the dead are no longer liable to death. Leaving aside the other greater joys of heaven, such as the Beatific Vision, and the close association with Christ our Savior in his risen humanity, the meeting with our Blessed Mother and with all the Saints, including our relatives and friends, what a source of happiness and joy will it be for us, to know that we can never die again! The happiness and joy which we shall have will never end. We all have had moments of happiness in this life, great as these moments were, the thought that they had to end too soon cast a shadow on our joy. There will be no shadow to darken or lessen our future joy and happiness.
Many Christians, even good, pious Christians, fear death and try to keep the very thought of it far from their minds. This is very understandable for one who believes (if there is such a one) that death is the end. To a certain degree it is understandable in the case of the believer or the Christian, whose conscience is not at peace with God. That latter, however, has the means of removing his fears by removing his sins, and by putting himself right with God. The normal, pious Christian should see death as what it is, an end of his time of probation and the door to his eternal reward. It is not normal for a student to dread his graduation day. Death for the God-fearing, honest Christian is graduation day. Therefore, no Christian should be afraid of it.
Of course, part of the fears which death instills come from the fear of the judgment which accompanies it. If we think every now and then, that our death is around the comer, we will turn to the God of mercy, to our loving Father, and ask for his forgiveness. He never refuses pardon to those who with a sincere heart, ask for it.
Let each one of us look into his own conscience this morning. Let him ask himself, how he would fare if death should claim him tonight. If there are sins on my conscience, which I would not want there when facing my just Judge, I still have time to approach the merciful Father. The Christian who does this daily, or even weekly, will not worry when death calls. He can rest assured that it is the beginning of the true and everlasting life, planned for him by God before time began.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
What Heaven Means
If heaven means being in Christ, then it also means co-being with all those who together form the one Body of Christ. There is no isolation in heaven. It is the open society of the saints and, consequently, also the fulfillment of all human togetherness, not in competition with the Beatific Vision, but rather in consequence thereof. Christian veneration of the saints depends on this knowledge, not on a mythical omniscience about the saints, but simply on the inviolable openness of every member of the whole Body of Christ to every other member, which presumes the unlimited closeness of love and is sure of finding God in everyone and everyone in God. There results from this an anthropological component. The integration of the I into the Body of Christ, its being at the disposal of the Lord and of everyone else, is not a dissolution of the I but its purification, which, at the same time, fulfills its highest potential. That is why heaven is different for each individual. Everyone sees God in his own way; everyone receives the love of the whole Body in his own unalterable uniqueness.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Prayer to Our Holy Guardian Angels
Heavenly Father, Your infinite love for us has chosen a blessed angel in heaven and appointed him our guide during this earthly pilgrimage. Accept our thanks for so great a blessing. Grant that we may experience the assistance of our holy protector in all our necessities. And you, holy, loving angel and guide, watch over us with all the tenderness of your angelic heart. Keep us always on the way that leads to heaven, and cease not to pray for us until we have attained our final destiny, eternal salvation. Then we shall love you for all eternity. We shall praise and glorify you unceasingly for all the good you have done for us while here on earth. Especially be a faithful and watchful protector of our children. Take our place, and supply what may be wanting to us through human frailty, short-sightedness, or sinful neglect. Lighten, O you perfect servants of God, our heavy task. Guide our children, that they may become like unto Jesus, may imitate Him faithfully, and persevere till they attain eternal life. Amen.