The refrain from today’s Responsorial Psalm is so appropriate for this time of year. The liturgical year is drawing to a close as daylight also fades. Winter lies ahead, but so does spring. The Church, through the selection of scripture readings, invites us to look beyond the winter of death to the springtime of new life in heaven. The somber mood and frightening images in the scriptures of these weeks inject us with a dose of reality that life is not always easy and no one escapes some pain and suffering. Yet God is present even in our suffering with the promise of victory. This is the source of hope and joy to which we cling.
Today’s First Reading portrays the heroic suffering of a Jewish mother and her seven sons. Forced to watch the torture and death of her sons before enduring the same fate, she encouraged them to trust in God who would reward them with life eternal. This was more important, in her view, than a longer life on earth without God. Read the whole story in 2 Maccabees 7.
Another inspiring story is found just before that, in 2 Maccabees 6:18-31, the martyrdom of the elderly Eleazar. He was so well liked that even his executioners encouraged him to pretend to eat pork, in violation of God’s law, and save his life. He would not do so because this would mislead the young Jews into thinking that they could do the same. So he suffered the consequences of disobeying the civil law in order to obey God’s law. A similar story of a Christian martyr is that of Saint Polycarp, whom we remember on February 23.
Today’s First Reading was probably chosen to correspond to the mention of seven brothers in the Gospel. Both passages, however, teach us that the resurrection of the body and life in heaven is not just a return to life as we know it on earth. Saint Paul says: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and it has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Saint Paul sums it all up in today’s Second Reading: “The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one…May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.”
Tomorrow is Veterans Day. Originally known as Armistice Day, it recalled the cessation of the hostilities which came to be known as World War I at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Congress’s resolution marking the end of this war in 1926 stated that this date “marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed,” and that “it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations.” It became a national holiday in 1938. Unfortunately “the war to end all wars” was not to be our last. In 1954, after World War II and the Korean Conflict, the name was changed to Veterans Day to honor American Veterans of all wars. So let us honor those among us and those deceased who have served our country in the armed forces. Let us also pray for those who are currently serving in the military. Let us pray for their safety as we honor their commitment.
Pray the rosary again this week for the souls in purgatory. Pray for good weather for the completion of the fall harvest. Pray for those in our community who are homeless, unemployed or needing health care. Pray for our military personnel serving in war zones and, as always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.