Is there life after death?

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

32th Sunday in ordinary times

Two friends of scholarly bend met in a restaurant after not having seen each other for years. After the usual recollections of things past, they engaged in serious discussion. One said, “You know, after long studies, I have come to the conclusion that everything in the universe can be explained by chance. Since this is so, then there is no God. And if there is no God, then there is no life hereafter. Thus death ends everything. Therefore, let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

The other disagreed, saying, "In my case, after working for many years with people, especially with the poor, I saw for myself many violations of justice and human rights — innocent people suffering and dying in the hands of unscrupulous people — that went unpunished. Others died of disease and hunger because of poverty. If there is no God and no life hereafter, then life has no meaning. Neither will the good be rewarded and bad punished. If so, then what are we here on earth for? Therefore, there is a God and there is life hereafter.”

The two eloquently argued their respective positions, failed to convince each other but parted still as friends.

In the gospel reading (Lk. 20: 27–38), we saw some Sadducees — a party among the Jews who accepted only the first five books of the Bible (the Torah) and who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead — approach Jesus with a case that ridiculed the resurrection of the dead. They cited a provision in the Mosaic Law which required a man to marry his dead brother's widow if he died childless. The intent of the law was to provide for the widow, assure the continuation of the family line and safeguard the inheritance. Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. The second up to the seventh married her one after the other and also died childless. Finally, the woman died. At the resurrection, they asked, whose wife would she be, since the seven brothers were married to her?

Arguing for the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting from the Book of Exodus which the Sadducees accepted, Jesus said that “the dead will rise even Moses made known... when he called `Lord' the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” Then Jesus said that at the resurrection there would be “no more marrying and being given in marriage” and “They can no longer die, for they are like angels.”

In life as in death, Jesus affirmed the resurrection of the dead. He invited people to take up their cross and follow Him. He urged His followers to store up for themselves “treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Mt. 6:20). The Beatitudes promise a better life in God's Kingdom. All these and more point to a life hereafter. In fact the Father made Jesus Himself the very argument for the resurrection of the dead by refusing to allow death have the last word over His Son.

The resurrection from the dead and life everlasting are also taught explicitly in our first reading (2Macc. 7:1–2, 9–14). Seven sons and their mother were under threat of torture and death by a foreign power. They were ordered to eat pork in violation of God's law. But each one encouraged each other to resist till death. Their mother did likewise. One of the seven, at the point of death said to his persecutor: “You are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” Their hope in the resurrection gave meaning to their deaths which in turn served as inspiration to their fellow Jews.

Certainly, if there is no resurrection from the dead, by all means, let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. But as affirmed by the mother and her seven sons and as explicitly taught by Jesus in words and deeds, the resurrection of the dead is one of the pillars of our faith.

From this belief however comes a mission. If we want to have a glorious resurrection from the dead then we have to live according to the teachings and commands of Jesus, specially the commandment of love, namely, to be at the service of God and our fellow men, primarily those in need. For as Jesus has said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt. 25:40).

Obviously, these are not easy to do. But do them we must if we want to be assured of our own resurrection after death and life everlasting. In this difficult life project, let us find strength in the words of St. Paul: “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,... encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word” (2Thes. 2:16-17).