In Maccabees, the seven brothers’ determination to uphold their religious beliefs leads to their torture and death, yet each remains joyfully certain of being resurrected to new life in God.
In today’s Gospel, the Sadducees question Jesus on the resurrection armed with an authoritative teaching from Moses and a different story involving seven brothers. While trying to make Jesus look ridiculous, it’s the Sadducees’ example of the unfortunate widow and her seven unfortunate husbands that ends up looking silly in light of the generous vision Jesus reveals of a life transformed in God. Jesus finally highlights the story of Moses who heard God from the burning bush declaring himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—of all who are forever alive in God.
The community of Luke’s Gospel is a resurrection community, a people sharing and interpreting the many stories of Jesus in his ministry, including this encounter with the Sadducees. They also hold in their hearts the collective memories of Jesus who suffered and died, and who entered their lives in a new way in the days after his death. For the earliest Christian communities and still today, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the centre point of faith. It is a faith that recognises the coexistence of death and new life in the paradoxical symbol of the cross. It acknowledges that while life can be joyful and beautiful, and it can also involve immense suffering and loss. It trusts Christ is deeply incarnate, abiding with creatures in their suffering, and embracing all into the promise of resurrected life, “…in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place…” (Laudato Si’, 243).
Meanwhile, resurrection faith invites us to see signs of God’s abiding presence and transforming promise in our day-to-day life. It calls us more deeply into relationship with God and all others—human and non-human creatures. While the resurrection is categorically unimaginable, our symbols, stories and metaphors can help. When I meditate on the way life can emerge from death, I imagine a huge tree, a habitat for insects and birds, destroyed in a devastating storm. Amidst ruin, in the silent aftermath, everything points to death and finality, and the memory of what was once only adds to the sorrow. And yet life is a promise, a waiting, a hidden seed, and what emerges from the devastation is the tiniest hint of green which begins to grow strong. Life revealed anew. Suffering and loss can feel unendurable yet love and hope does endure and “for God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).