In today’s Gospel, some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, ask Jesus a question in an attempt to trap him. They ask him about seven imaginary brothers. The first brother married and then passed away. Since the woman had no children to care for her, the second brother married her. Then, that brother passed away and the third brother married her. This process continued until all seven brothers had married this woman. So, the Sadducees wanted to know whose wife this woman would be after the resurrection.
Of course, they weren’t interested in Jesus’ answer to this ridiculous question. They expected him to say one of two things. Either the brothers didn’t need to marry the woman and support her as was the custom at that time. Or these seven brothers would be fighting over the same woman after their resurrection. Instead, Jesus commented that after the resurrection we no longer marry or are given in marriage.
Throughout the Gospels, there are stories of people trying to trap Jesus. Even Pilate tried to trap him by asking him: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Eventually, they gave up trying to trap him and crucified him. Even then, Jesus out smarted them when he rose from the dead and they were left with an empty tomb. Then, they were forced to lie and to say that someone had moved the stone and stolen the body.
The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Romans couldn’t tolerate Jesus’ message. He was a threat to them. Since they couldn’t discredit him, they dealt with Jesus in the only way that they knew. They crucified him. Of course, this is what the Old Testament prophesied and it led to the glory of the resurrection.
In the first reading from the Book of Maccabees, we find another seven brothers. These seven brothers refused to eat pork in violation of God’s law. Each of the brothers were tortured and killed. When he was near death, the fourth brother said: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.”
It is remarkable that before Jesus’ resurrection, these seven brothers had faith in their resurrection and were willing to die for it. These brothers yearn for an end time when God will rule with justice and peace.
Today, someone might ask us a question to trap us when they really aren’t interested in the answer. For example, someone might ask us how we can oppose abortion. Aren’t we forcing unwed mothers to have children that they cannot afford and will be forced to raise in poverty? We might say that we support adoption. In fact, I recently saw a study that Catholics are three times more likely to adopt a child than the general population.
Just like during Jesus time, those who oppose the truth don’t stop at ridicule. They aren’t willing to tolerate those whose beliefs oppose theirs and threaten their life style. When the students from Covington Catholic High School, for example, were approached by a native American during the Right to Life rally in Washington DC last January, he and his supporters weren’t interested in tolerating these high school students. And the Washington Post wasn’t interested in the welfare of these young men when they posted their inflammatory article describing the encounter. And those who threatened these young men on Facebook also weren’t interested in tolerance.
There is a price to be paid for proclaiming the truth. These young men were marching at this large rally proclaiming the truth that life begins at conception. Some would say that they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, I’d say that they were in the right place at the right time and were meant to stand up to the intolerance and hate of those who oppose the truth.
As a hopeful people, trusting in Jesus, we shouldn’t be depressed or worried about the ridicule and intolerance we might receive from others who cannot accept Christ or his truth. Like Christ, we are to respond to them lovingly but firmly. Christ has risen, he has conquered the evil one, and he has established his church which will survive until the end of time.
Some of us might be reluctant to proclaim the truth, especially on controversial topics such as abortion and same sex marriage. As Abraham Lincoln once said: "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." All of us are called, like the early witnesses of the resurrection, to lovingly proclaim the Good News of Christ’s resurrection.
Let us all boldly proclaim the truth with our actions and our words. Let us put our trust in the power that was unleashed at the opening of that empty tomb two thousand years ago.