By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now. What we shall later be has not yet been revealed. However, we do know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he really is. Everyone who has this hope in him keeps himself pure, just as he is pure.” (1John 3:2-3)
The Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed at the beginning of November carry us to the threshold of eternal life which we announce at every Mass in the Nicene Creed on the Lord’s Day. “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”
Throughout this month each Gospel passage from St. Luke inspires us to see beyond this world to our destiny in heaven. Last Sunday the Sadducees who believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but did not believe in life after death, presented Jesus with a situation that was an attempt to trip him up.
Using the Mosaic Law that required a brother to marry his deceased brother’s widow if they did not have children, they cooked up a ridiculous scenario in which seven brothers married the woman. “Whose wife will she be at the resurrection since she married all seven,”(Luke 20:33) they asked the Lord, likely smirking, thinking they had checkmate.
The Lord’s response was not only brilliant, but it was also an invitation to the Sadducees to enlarge their understanding of who God is and who we are as God’s children. “Those who are judged worthy of taking part in the age to come and the resurrection of the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage… They are like angels, and they are the children of God, because they are the children of the resurrection. That the dead are raised Moses himself showed in the account about the burning bush, where he calls the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for in his sight all are alive.” (Luke 20:35-38)
On this weekend ahead, Jesus assures his disciples that in the midst of worldly upheavals and suffering, “by your perseverance you will secure your lives.” (Luke 21:19)
On the Solemnity of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the church year, the promise of eternal life unfolds from the Cross when Jesus responds to the repentant thief. “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
In the Gospel of Luke these are the final words of Jesus earthly existence spoken to another person. All that remained was the earth-shattering event of the resurrection, fulfilling the Lord’s words spoken to Martha on the occasion of her brother Lazarus’ death. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Martha, answered, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 11:25-27)
Do you believe this? How blessed is the person who can say yes to the Lord with Martha’s conviction. This is the first work that please God. (John 6:29)
During November we have a unique perspective to consider the promise of eternal life through Jesus words and actions. “Those who are judged worthy take part in the resurrection of the dead are his words.”
Was the unrepentant thief left behind, judged unworthy? We are God’s children now, but do we keep ourselves pure as God is pure?
Do our choices have sufficient gravitas as God’s children? Does our freedom to love, mirror the mind and mercy of the crucified Lord?
These are only a few questions that come to the fore prompted by God’s Word during this month of All Saints and All Souls. Even as the darkness deepens with each passing day, the Light of the World is always drawing us out of darkness into his own marvelous light.