November 10, 2019

In these days of November, as we gather pace moving towards the end of the Church year, our scriptures become more interesting.  The choice of readings begin to reflect something of an urgency, compelling believers to make a choice for faith. 

Today’s first reading, taken  from the Second Book of Maccabees, tells a story of a woman who is martyred for her beliefs, along with her seven sons.  The excerpt we hear in Church is only part of the story, but whether we read the whole story or not, we are quickly invited into the drama. 

There are a number of themes running through this text, not least of which is the idea that martyrdom is a powerful witness to the faith.  In this text we find people unwilling to compromise their faith, and even willing to die for it.  They do so because they understand that God will vindicate all those who suffer at the hands of the unjust. 

This gives me thought to wonder on how we witness to faith?  I am especially mindful of how we make choices and how we witness to our faith among the younger members of our parish community?  Rather than compromise their values, the mother and her sons know that there are those looking on who may find courage and hope in their faithfulness.  It raises the question for ourselves about whether or not we are as diligent in offering our young people a worthwhile example to follow, and whether our example is one that can lend courage when they are faced with difficulties or trials in life? 

I know for myself that when I was young, I learned a lot from my family by listening to them and by watching them.  If the truth is to be told, I learned more from watching them than from listening to them. I don’t know if things have changed that much, even though many years have passed.  I think young people today still learn a lot from the example of the people they look up to in our families, in our schools, in our sports activities, and maybe even in our churches.

It makes me wonder if we pay enough attention to how we behave in life, both with our words and with our actions, and whether or not our words and our actions are in alignment?  The scriptures at the end of the year bring us to think about difficult times and how we conduct ourselves.  What is our first response when we experience suffering or hardship in our lives?  Do we seek to escape, or do we enter into our hardships with the resolute confidence born of our faith in a God who sustains and empowers and who accompanies us in our difficulties?  Do we avoid dealing with the important things of our own lives by distracting ourselves with the stuff we have no influence or control of?  Can we acknowledge that to call out to God in our pain is one of the most natural responses in the world, trusting that God knows what it is to suffer and to experience tremendous loss? 

In the gospel story, Jesus seems to want to help us keep our eye on the ball of what matters in human living.  He takes the nit-picking question of the Pharisees and invites them to go beyond the legalities of the crazy situation they propose.  He doesn't dismiss them, however, but encourages them to focus on the bigger picture.  Instead of getting all crazy over who’s married to whom in the next life, he reminds them that life in God is eternal, and all who enter into the life of the blessed are wrapped up in the glory of God, free of the cares that befuddle Pharisees and Saducees alike in this world.  Life in God is what is most important… 

The life of discipleship calls for an integrity we learn to live into across the whole of our lives.  When I was younger and lacked experience of life, I was tempted to see hypocrisy rather than to see people struggling to become their better selves before God.  As I grew older, I have experienced more temptations to give up or to despair of ever fulfilling my full potential as a child of God.  I understand and appreciate my own weaknesses and wonder if they might become distractions for my brothers and sisters in faith?  But I have learned (and continue to learn) to trust in the compassion of our Lord Jesus, who reminds me to be patient with myself and with others, and who encourages me to be open to my own conversion of heart and to that of my brothers and sisters too.

In the words of the Apostle: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” (2Thess 2:16-17)


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