Living in the future.

My topic today is: Living in the future and I will look at three stories about people living in the future. In each case I want to look at the context because it is hard to understand something when it is taken out of context.

The Rwandan Genocide took place in 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War. The Hutu, the Tutsi and the Twa were involved in the conflict. More than 600,000 people were killed in the bloodshed that ensued. Several inspiring stories and several inspiring movies have emerged from that conflict and I will mention just one.

This story is told by Jesuit Father Marcel Uwineza who is a native Rwandan. At one point in the conflict a group of soldiers went to a high school and killed the guards and entered a classroom. The soldiers demanded that the students go to different corners of the room according to their ethnic identity. But the students refused. They huddled together in a group and would not budge. They said, “We are all Rwandan. We are one group. We will not separate ourselves from each other. We are united. We want unity, not division” The soldiers became very angry and dropped a grenade that killed most of the students.

These teenagers are now folk heroes in Rwanda. They placed their hope in unity and unification. They were living in the future while the soldiers continued to live in the status quo of ethnic bigotry and separation. The students were living in the future. They had a concept of what the future will be like and they decided that they would live in that future here and now.

Today’s first reading came to us from the Second Book of Maccabees and this was the context: Antiochus the fourth was the King of Syria from 175 BC until 163 BC. During his kingship, the Syrians invaded Israel and took over the government. Antiochus tried to make the Jews abandon their religion.

One day his soldiers brought in a woman and her seven sons. They told the oldest boy to eat some pork. He said, “No, I will not break God’s law.” So, they threw him into a kettle of boiling oil. The boy’s mother and brothers were forced to watch this torture. Then the soldiers gave the second son the same choice: “Eat the pork or we will kill you!” The boy decided not to eat the pork; so, he was tortured and killed. One by one the boys were given the choice and one by one they were killed.

We heard all that in today’s first reading. But the reading left out the most important verses from that story. You see, the mother was talking to each boy before and after the soldiers issued their ultimatum. Their mother was speaking in Hebrew and the soldiers could not understand what she was saying because they were from Syria. The mother said to each of her sons:

“I want to tell you about a mystery. I do not know how your life began in my womb. I did not give you life and cause you to breathe. I did not put together the parts of your body. It was God who did it. If these soldiers cut up your body, God will put it back together again. If these soldiers kill you, God will once again give you life. Our God is the Lord of Life. God will not abandon you. God will give you a New Life in heaven.”

So the boys went to their death without fear because they were filled with faith in the future. They knew that after death God would give them more life. They were supported by their mother’s faith. They accepted their mother’s faith and made it their own. With the help of her faith, they were able to live in the future.

Their faith can be an inspiration for us today. For example, we will always be afraid of nuclear war. And we will always be afraid of terrorism. But our fears will diminish to the degree that we believe that the Lord of Life will give us life in the future. We will have life no matter what happens.

Let’s move forward to the Gospel for today’ liturgy. When Jesus was teaching in his homeland, He would often criticize the Pharisees. He criticized their behavior; but he did not criticize all of their teachings. For example, the Pharisees believed in life after death - and so did Jesus. But the Sadducees were from a different school of thought. The Sadducees did not believe in life after death. They said, “When you die it’s all over. Death is the absolute end for you. You better live for today because there is no life after death.”

Thus, the Sadducees were the real enemies of Jesus and today’s Gospel was about the Sadducees. They were trying to show Jesus that the doctrine of the Resurrection is ridiculous. So, they asked Jesus about the woman with the seven husbands. “What happens when they all die? If there is life after death, she will have to be the spouse of seven husbands and that is impossible! So that just goes to show that there is no such thing as life after death.”

Then Jesus said to them, “You would be right if the next life was simply a continuation of life on earth. But, in reality, the next life is totally different. It is a different kind of life. When you live in heaven you do not need a spouse. When you live on earth you need a spouse to provide you with love. But in the next life you will not need a spouse because God will provide you with all the love that you need.

When Jesus was arguing with the Sadducees, He did more than win the argument. He made the point that life after death is totally unlike life on earth. Resurrection is not the same as resuscitation. Resurrection gives you a total transformation….. a totally new life.

As St. Paul says in Second Corinthians: “When you rise from the dead, you lose your earthly body and God gives you a heavenly body. Your life moves out of its earthen vessel and takes up residence in a heavenly vessel.”

St. John says in the Book of Revelation: “The Resurrection gives you a totally new life, a better life, a life with no more suffering, no more tears, no more sadness but only the fullness of joy and peace.”

I will close with a short summary. In the Second book of Maccabees, the mother of the seven boys teaches us that God is the Lord of Life. We are not afraid of the future because God will give us New Life in the future.

And in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is calling us to look forward to the next life. Life after death will not be a rerun of this life. The next life will be totally filled with love, joy and happiness.

There is a lesson here and the lesson is this: We should live in hope. We should live in the future. We should be hope-filled people because the future will be totally filled with love, joy and peace.

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