First Reading Commentary
As we're just a few weeks away from the start of the Advent Season this Reading, although written before the birth of Christ, contains Christian ideals: namely, being a disciple of the Lord at all costs and the belief in the resurrection. Hopefully none of us will ever be put to death because of our faith but even putting aside the fact that these men were about to be martyred, this Reading offers a lesson about how to become instruments of the Almighty by abandoning our ways and embracing His ways. As these men express a belief in being raised from the dead and living forever, they probably have no idea that God has used them to prophesy the coming of Christ. Most likely they are expecting their resurrection to come from the workings of the One Creator God and are clueless to the fact that they are prophesying about what will later be revealed as the Triune God; and the second Person of the Triune God would reveal Himself through the Incarnation and as Man He would destroy death forever; and through Him is the hope of resurrection for all.
It is only those who have lived after Christ's Resurrection and those of us who are currently living our earthly existence that can fully appreciate the magnitude of the statements made by these men in this Reading. God's words today can still be heard through the voice of others. Has anyone ever said anything to you that was an answer to a prayer? Has anyone ever been at the right place and the right time whose presence turned your tough situation into a pleasant memory? Have you ever said anything to someone which turned out to be an answer to their prayer? Chances are the answer is yes to all three questions even if you don't recall or were not apprised by the other party that you were an answer to their prayer.
It's easy to get caught up in our busy lives and completely miss the workings of God. But these are the kinds of things that God does through us when we simply say yes to Him. Occasionally, spoken words seem to be insignificant for the moment; and then somewhere down the road those words have extraordinary relevance. Frequently reflecting on the Power within us can all the more enrich our spiritual life. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet a prophet? If so, look in a mirror or look at the person sitting next to you at Mass.
Second Reading Commentary
The human heart bears a tremendous burden. Sacred Scripture tells us that God judges by the heart alone (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7). In this Reading, Saint Paul's prayer for us is that our Lord will encourage our hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.
In the oldest Catholic translation of Scripture in English, the Douay-Rheims version, the word "heart" or a derivative of it appears there 1,067 times. What an interesting piece of apparatus God has given us in the human heart! It is capable of expressing a mixed bag of emotions. Quite often the battle between good and evil takes place within our own hearts. The human heart has more to it than we can fully comprehend; and because of this its importance can never be underestimated. Why else would God want permission from us to take complete possession of it? When God holds our hearts in the Palm of His Hand so much good can from it - the impossible becomes very possible. But when the door of the heart is slammed shut, leaving God on the outside, it is capable of concocting unspeakable evils. Prejudices, dislikes, pure hatred and harboring anger are negative forces that could dwell within our hearts because in our human weakness we find it very difficult to let our Lord be its Master. There is always that part of us that desires to be our own boss. And even when we attempt to let God take charge, the serpent is always there whispering in our ears that what our Lord promises simply isn't true. Cultivating a humble heart will breed sympathy and understanding for one another's weaknesses.
Prayer is the best defense against the one who is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. May we continue to pray for a complete conversion of our hearts: "Iesu, mitis et humilis Corde, fac cor nostrum secundum Cor tuum" – (Jesus, meek and humble of Heart, make our hearts like unto Thine).
It's quite obvious that the Sadducees are attempting to make a complete mockery of Jesus. They are asking Him to teach how multiple marriages will fare in the resurrected state even though the Sadducees have no belief in a resurrection.
As Christians, we are able to look beyond the horizons of earthly existence and know perfection is waiting for us even though the meaning of perfection in an eternal state is indecipherable: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard: neither has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those that love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
What Jesus makes clear, though, is that conjugal love will not exist in the resurrected life. In heaven we will find out and perhaps be downright shocked by how limited and conditional is the love we offer in this world. Married love, creating a new family, love for our children and love for parents is just about the fullest extent of love that human beings can currently comprehend. Does anyone really understand the kind of love that would make Love Himself die to save all of humanity - past, present and future? In the sacred bond of married life, considering the elimination of conjugal love in the afterlife right now might seem disappointing because we don't understand how unflawed and beautiful Love is in heaven which is also coupled with an equal inexplicability of how limited the love is we currently share.
Our faith and our hope can imaginatively transport us to something better but our imaginations cannot conjure up the infinite reality of God's love. In heaven, our royal priesthood will be exercised in unmarred proficiency as we offer worship, praise and adoration to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for all eternity.
In Saint John's Gospel Jesus says: "The Father and I are One" (John 10:30). It is this transforming union of God and humanity that so few experience in the here and now but most assuredly all who love God will experience in the hereafter.