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A CLEAR CONSCIENCE AND LIFE AFTER DEATH

Father Francis's picture
Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

1 Macc. 6:1-13 & Lk. 20:27-40

Antiochus IV is given much adverse coverage in this Book of Maccabees, for he was a constant menace to the lsraelites. We see him defeated, sick, unable to sleep and facing death in today's reading. This passage proclaims the teaching that you cannot live a life of sin and violence, and be at peace when you come to die. Antiochus had attempted to do just that.

He is described by historians as eccentric, capricious and belligerent. He went on a military campaign to Egypt and on the way home plundered the Jewish Temple and confiscated all its wealth. He also suppressed Jewish worship, destroyed their sacred books, and imposed Hellenistic customs and pagan festivities on the Jewish people. He defiantly erected an altar in the sacred Jewish Temple to the honour of Zeus the Greek god. This precipitated the Maccabean revolt. Now on his deathbed, he remembers his wicked deeds and feels that he is being punished for them. He laments, "Now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem … I am dying of melancholy in a foreign land.” Eventually our evil deeds catch up with us!

It is said that because we are human we all have a skeleton or two in our cupboard. If that is true we should make sure we are sorry for past sins and confess them to the Lord in Confession. Then, like repentant Peter we can face the future as a redeemed sinner. In this way we will make sure that we never allow our evil deeds to catch up on us.

This exchange between Jesus and the Sadducees contradicts some of our popular views of the afterlife. We tend to think of Heaven as a place where we will pick up with our lives in relationships as they were left on Earth. But apparently Jesus took a dim view of such romanticising of the afterlife. The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, tried to show that His belief was full of logical contradictions. "Suppose a woman had seven husbands," they queried, "whose wife will she be in Heaven?" But Jesus undercut their argument, "In this age we marry but in the age to come there is not marriage." Life in the hereafter will be radically different - and radically better!

It will be better in two ways. Most importantly of all, Jesus promised, those who die in the Lord will no longer be liable to death, which will be a thing of the past. There will be no growing old, no waning of powers, no threat of disease, no dimming of mind. All of the things we associate with death will be a thing of the past. And there will be no marriages in heaven. By its very nature marriage separates one family from another. But in Heaven we will all be one family. There will be no distinction between rich and poor, obscure and famous, educated and ignorant, white and black, Christian and non-Christian. Those who die in the Lord belong to one community of being.

Lord Jesus, may we all die with a clear conscience, looking forward to the resurrection of the body and the happiness of life everlasting.

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