I hate to break it to you, but there’s only one way out of this race and that’s to die. Every minute you live you get closer to death.
Knowing that, what’s the point of life anyway?
Our ancestors knew what modern humanity, with all its tech gadgets and advanced education, seems to be ignorant of. Our purpose is to know, love, and serve God and be happy with him in Heaven for eternity.
Thats it. End of story.
We tend to way over complicate things, don’t we?
The inevitable truth is, we are all going to die someday. Knowing the end of the story, only two important questions remain. First, what do we do with our time here and second, what is the meaning of our suffering?
What Do We Do With Our Time Here?
We always have a choice between good and evil. Assuming most of us are not pure evil, what Christians do with our time may not seem that different from what atheists do. The Law of God is Nature’s Law. This means we all, no matter what religion we claim as our own, understand certain things to be good and others to be bad.
Life is good. Murder is bad.
Donating is good. Stealing is bad.
Love is good. Betrayal is bad.
The list goes on and does not include only such obvious distinctions between good and evil. Universally, we see neatness as good and clutter as bad, vitality as good and laziness as bad, courage as good and cowardice as bad. Humanity was universally created to crave organization and appreciate beauty in all its many forms. It is a sign of God’s creation.
The difference comes in the face of adversity. In these situations, what Christians do and why they do it makes a world of difference.
We see an example of this in 2 Maccabees 7. Here, a woman and her seven sons were arrested for their faith. Getting free would have been easy. All the family had to do was eat a piece of pork thus proclaiming loyalty to a king other than God. Eating pork seems such a small thing to us today. It seems silly to suffer torture and brutal execution for something we take for granted.
But the family, the mother and all seven of her sons, knew Truth. They knew small things lead to big ones. They knew if they were not strong enough to withstand a small compromise, they would never withstand a big one.
Instead of focusing on the wrong being done to them or how life “should” be. they focused on what they each were called to do. They did not question why they had been chosen for such suffering or why others had capitulated. They did not bemoan the fact that if Jews had united in their beliefs, they would have been invincible. Instead they simply focused on what the Lord asked of them.
The first Christians were Jews and in this passage we see the strength, courage, and hope those early believers have passed on to us if we choose to access it. That hope lies in the fact that life is more than we see.
We might assume this family was well known in society. Otherwise, why would such a public spectacle have been made of them? Why would anyone care whether a poor unknown family converted or not? Then again, caring for the poor and unknown was Christ’s way. This family may have been showing the elite how to act in faith.
I do not know the family’s status nor whether this mother of seven was a single mother or not. Perhaps her husband was off fighting beside the Maccabees. Perhaps he had caved under pressure and had eaten the pork himself. Perhaps he was simply working, unaware that his family has been taken or maybe he was separated from them and also fighting behind the scenes. Whatever the case, this mother of seven and her boys stood alone.
In what I can only assume was the greatest trial of her life, this mother of seven sons stood as a single mom.
The most amazing thing of the story, and there are many amazing things in the story, is that all eight of these family members detached from all that is offered in this world for the unseen hope of what lay in the next.
Remember too, that these are Jews hundreds of years before Jesus‘s birth displaying faith in life after death. We witness one son offering his hands to his executioner for dismemberment knowing God will restore those hands one day. Another offers his tongue with the same hope. This family believed in bodily resurrection without any real idea of what Resurrection was or how it would come about.
To embrace resurrection, this family detached from wealth and riches, reputation and friendships. They detached from all of the should have beens of life. They were likely inspired by one, but they had to detach even from one another. They detach to allow each family member to die a gruesome death.
What mother today would not sacrifice herself for the sake of her child? What mother today would not eat the pork in order to save her son?
Yet this family detached from each other and even from life itself.
What Happens After Death?
Sunday’s gospel, Luke 20, tells the well-known story of a woman who is married to seven brothers in succession. Her first husband died and left her childless, leaving her to marry his brother. When that brother died, she married the next and so on. Finally, after the seventh brother passed away, the woman also died.
In this ancient world, where women were unable to care for themselves, this was tradition. This was how women were protected and cared for when they were unable to earn a living on their own.
Of course, this is a fictional story brought to the Lord Jesus by those wanting to trick Him. It was an extreme example meant to ridicule. Instead the Lord treated the story with compassion and intelligence. He revealed that in Heaven, there is no marriage. In Heaven, men and women do not give themselves to one another in marriage. In Heaven, there is a love that surpasses, even that a man and woman united in holy matrimony.
Divorce. Detachment. Death
In both stories, one historical and one fictional, we see a woman, suffer severe tragedy. The pain of losing seven sons or seven husbands, no matter the circumstances, is unfathomable.
The only way one can face such overwhelming tragedy is to have faith in something greater than the self. In this world, we put so much emphasis on personal worth, yet we have a world that knows so little of the value of life or the true meaning of worth.
The families above knew there is hope beyond what we see here. The children knew there is more to life than being alive. They knew there was more to death than dying. The men, largely invisible in the stories, must have taught their children well and, in the case of the seven widowed woman, followed through on familial duties. They sacrificed themselves for a hope we find hard to embrace today.
These ancient folk knew we all came into this world with nothing. Then we spend decades accumulating all sorts of baggage – trinkets, ideas, and relationships. In the end, we must offer them all up to the Lord.
We must detach even from the idea of marriage and children and family. It is only through detachment that we have hope of everlasting life. It is only in learning to let go of what should have been that we learn to embrace what will be.
Changing perspective can be incredibly helpful in overcoming life’s challenges. Seeing unwanted divorce or abandonment as a loss is devastating. Seeing it instead as detaching from all but the Lord gives our suffering meaning, value, and purpose. Chiseling away parts of ourselves is painful but necessary on the path to Heaven. Eliminating the extra baggage, even in loving relationships, gives us the only true hope we have for restoring those relationships, living in eternal happiness, and a embracing a Love greater than any found on Earth.
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