Sunday, Nov. 10, is the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C). Mass readings: 2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38.

Sunday’s readings begin with the book that closes the Old Testament. In a dramatic and moving account of courage, the seven brothers in the Second Book of Maccabees choose to undergo torture and death at the hands of their pagan oppressors rather than violate the Jewish law.

Before he dies, one brother proclaims, “You are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” His brother says the same: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”

Hundreds of years before the New Testament, the firm belief in the resurrection of the dead surfaces in this story of hope. We see it still in Jesus’ followers, explicitly in Martha’s profession after her brother’s death: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24).

By this time, however, a political and religious sect had arisen: the Sadducees. They held strictly to only the explicit doctrine of the first five books of the Bible. Therefore, they denied, among other commonly held Jewish beliefs, the resurrection of the dead, all rewards and punishments of the afterlife, and the existence of angels. These Sadducees were friendly with the Romans and enjoyed their favor, and in this, they were enemies of the Pharisees. But in one regard both groups agreed: Jesus was a threat and must be discredited in front of the growing crowds. The Pharisees had been unable to trap him. So it was the Sadducees turn.

They set him up with a challenge and an apparent contradiction: If the Mosaic Law prescribed that a widow marry her husband’s brother, whose wife would she be at the resurrection? 

Just as he had astounded the teachers in the temple when he was young (Luke 2:47), Jesus silences these self-righteous Sadducees and all their cunning questions with a masterful answer, which he puts in their own terms.

The Mosaic Law was for this life, he says in effect, and God, whose “ways are not your ways” (Isaiah 55:8), is not limited by it. The rules of this age cannot apply to the next life, and he reveals that there will be no marriage in heaven. Jesus then challenges the deeply held beliefs of the Sadducees by suggesting that the words of Moses himself actually points to the existence of the afterlife: When Moses calls God “Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob,” he is not calling on a “God of the dead, but of the living.”

Jesus would fulfill all of Mosaic Law in his own person, in his own resurrection from the dead. He challenges the Jewish leaders — and us — to look beyond the things of the world and to hope in the resurrection and in the life of the world to come, where all things will be made new (Revelation 21:5).

Claire Dwyer is editor of SpiritualDirection.com and

coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix,

 where she lives with her husband and their six children.