01 June, 2016. Wednesday, Week 9

Saint Justin, martyr, memorial

1st Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12

Rekindle the flame of your vocation, and endure for the Gospel

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, for the sake of the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I am grateful to God – whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors did – when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. This grace was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. For this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher, and for this reason I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know the one in whom I have put my trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that day what I have entrusted to him.

Gospel: Mark 12:18-27

In the resurrection, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that ‘if a man’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, the man shall marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ There were seven brothers; the first married and, when he died, left no children; and the second married her and died, leaving no children; and the third likewise; none of the seven left children. Last of all the woman herself died. In the resurrection whose wife will she be? For the seven had married her.”

Jesus said to them, “Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.”


The transformation of marriage

Jesus’ remark about there being no marriage in the resurrection is somewhat mysterious, but he clearly taught that a heavenly existence is in store for us. We will rise from the dead, in such continuity with our earthly life that what we do here on earth will determine our joy or punishment in the hereafter. We will be radically changed, and indeed the entire earth will be transformed. Yesterday’s reading from, 2 Peter announced “new heavens and a new earth” and the Book of Revelation promises “no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away” (Rev 21:4).

Even marriage and family will be different, transformed, yes, but hardly forgotten. If earthly existence affects our heavenly life, we may hope that the ties of marriage and family will somehow continue, insofar as “love never passes away”; this is the determining factor. Our final judgment will be decided on whether or not we fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, comforted the sick, visited prisoners (Matthew 25:40). If love for strangers and for the ministers of the gospel is so rewarded and so remembered, then surely the love and self-sacrifice in marriage and family life, also.

The bonding power of marriage is mentioned by Paul just before the passage for today, where he pays a warm tribute to Timothy’s family and Paul’s friendship with them. “I find myself thinking of your sincere faith, faith which first belonged to your grandmother Lois and to your mother Eunice, and which is in you also” (2 Tim 1:4-5). When Paul was awaiting his death by execution and martyrdom, his memory reached back serenely and gratefully to the family ties of his disciple Timothy.

If the first reading calls for fidelity to one’s vocation, in the gospel Jesus declares that fidelity will find an abundant reward, its hopes will be fulfilled beyond one’s dreams. Moreover, Jesus defends the resurrection of the body, which is the instrument for giving and receiving love and affection, for feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. His style of reasoning with the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, would hardly convince them or anyone else unless there is faith in God’s love and compassion. Faith in God as sharing life and love, as bountifully generous, makes the difference. God will not raise us to half-life or half-love. What the fullness of life and love will be remains God’s secret, the supreme object of our trust and faith.

What of life after death?

In today’s gospel, Jesus is approached by the members of a party in Judaism, the Sadducees, who did not believe in life after death. The Sadducees recognized only the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch, as Sacred Scripture, and they saw no evidence in those five books to suggest that there was a life beyond this earthly life. They ask Jesus about it, knowing that he has a different view on this issue to themselves. The case put to Jesus by the Sadducees presupposes that any life beyond this earthly life will simply be an extension of this earthly life, with our previous relationships unchanged. But Jesus’ reply suggests otherwise: “When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; for they are like the angels in heaven.” Life in heaven is not a simple continuation of life as we know it on earth; it will be qualitatively different. St Paul speaks about this hoped-for life beyond death in terms of a notable transformation… when “we shall all be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51). We would, of course, like to know more about the nature of this transformation. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus refers to heaven as the place where God’s will is done to a degree that’s not achieved within this life. Because of the transformation that awaits us, we will be more like the person God wills us to be and always intended us to be. [MH]

St Justin, Martyr

Justin (100-165) was a lawyer and philosopher from Neapolis in Judaea (modern Nablus), who spent his adult life in Rome. He was the foremost interpreter of the theory of the Logo s in the 2nd century. A gifted writer, his best known surviving text is his Apologia to the Roman emperor, Antoninus, defending Christian morality, and offering ethical and philosophical arguments to get him to cease persecuting the Christian church. For refusing to sacrifice to the emperor, he was beheaded after a trial by Junius Rusticus, prefect of Rome.

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