2 Mac. 7:1-2, 7, 9-14; 2 Thess. 2:16-3:5; Lk. 20:27-38
During today's First Reading from 2 Maccabees, [2 Mac. 7:1-2, 9-14] we heard of the martyrdom of the mother and her seven sons. We heard that each and everyone of them were willing to die for the Law of Moses because they believed that at the last trumpet, the King of the universe would raise them up to an everlasting life. The just were ready to die rather than sin, trusting in the Lord God to raise them up again with their bodies being fully restored. These holy martyrs have displayed incredible faith in the face of death and torture.
Today's reading from the Gospel of Luke provides us with a glimpse of our "blessed hope." In eternal life, those who have persevered to the end, they shall all enjoy the fulness of life as it was meant to be enjoyed.
In Christian teachings, eternal life is not an inherent part of human existence, and is a unique gift from God, based on themodel of the Resurrection of Jesus, viewed as a unique event through which death was conquered "once for all", permitting Christians to experience eternal life.
Those who follow Jesus inherit eternal life. Those who believe, those who submit, those who obey enter into his Kingdom. In his kingdom many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and say others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, “You also go and work in my vineyard and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” “Because no one has hired us,” they answered. He said to them, “You also go and work in my vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.” The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against he landowner, “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” But he answered one of them, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have a right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first and the first will be last.
One of the most famous martyrs in history was Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna. On a festival day when people were feeling excited and daring, they decided to seize Polycarp. When given the choice to worship Caesar or die, he boldly confessed that he was a Christian and could not worship Caesar. When then threatened with sacrificing to Caesar or being burned, he gave his courageous response: "Eighty and six years have I served Christ, and he has never done me wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"
As they prepared to burn him, he stated, "It is well. I fear not the fire that burns for a season, and after a while is quenched. Why do you delay? Come, do your will."1 And with that, they burned Polycarp to death. Let us hear his assurance in those words: "It is well." He knew that his King had saved him and had been with him during all those years of service. His King would be with him, even in the flames. When we have assurance we will serve Jesus no matter what comes.
Many people wonder if their past mistakes or sins can or will keep their life from ever being different or better. Sometimes our past mistakes keep making their way into our present, robbing us of a brighter future.
In the movie "The Natural” Robert Redford portrays the fictional character Roy Hobbs. As a young man, Hobbs had the potential of becoming the greatest baseball player ever. But he made a bad decision regarding an emotionally unstable woman, who shot him.
Sixteen years later, before he lost his opportunity, he tried to compete in the major leagues. He was spectacular. However, just as his season was reaching the climax, his health failed due to the complications related to the gunshot wound earlier in his life. Also, a greedy team owner threatened to expose his scandalous past. In his hospital room he voiced his inner most thoughts to an old friend, "I guess some mistakes you never stop paying for. My life didn't turn out the way I expected." His friend replied, "You know, I believe we have two lives.... The life we learn with and the life we live after that."
In 1 John, the Bible tells us that we can have two lives. The first life is that one which is broken by sin. That life teaches us some painful lessons. The second life is that one which comes through faith in Christ bringing us the forgiveness of sin. This new life is in Jesus.
Today’s readings tell us that we can change our lives and be inheritors of eternal life. That is the assurance of Jesus. To enjoy this promise of God what we require is to turn away from sin and live a just life.