The Bible in a Year (with Fr. Mike Schmitz)

In The Bible in a Year podcast, Fr. Mike Schmitz walks you through the entire Bible in 365 episodes, providing commentary, reflection, and prayer along the way.

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Each 20-25 minute episode includes:

Two to three scripture readings

A reflection from Fr. Mike Schmitz

A guided prayer to help you hear God’s voice in his Word

The Bible contains adult themes that may not be suitable for children - parental discretion is advised.

Day 304: Life Beyond Death (2022)

October 30, 2022

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Fr. Mike focuses on the powerful theme that connects all of our readings today- the reality of life beyond death. In the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers in 2 Macabees, we see how the brothers and their mother fiercely reject the temptation to violate God's law, and boldly hold onto their hope in the resurrection of the dead. Our readings from Wisdom also remind us that death is not the end, because we know that eternal life is waiting for us beyond death. Today's readings are 2 Maccabees 7, Wisdom 3-4, and Proverbs 24:27-29.

For the complete reading plan, visit ascensionpress.com/bibleinayear.

Please note: The Bible contains adult themes that may not be suitable for children - parental discretion is advised.

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Transcript

Hi, my name is Father Mike Schmitz and you're listening to the Bible in a Year podcast, where we encounter God's voice and live life through the lens of Scripture.

The Bible in a Year podcast is brought to you by Ascension.

Using the Great Adventure Bible Timeline, we'll read all the way from Genesis to Revelation, discovering how the story of salvation unfolds and how we fit into that story today.

It is day 304.

We're reading today from the second book of the Maccabees, chapter 7, wisdom, chapter 3 and 4, as well as Proverbs, chapter 24, 27 through 29.

As always, the Bible translation I'm reading from is the revised standard version, second Catholic edition.

I'm using the Great Adventure Bible from Ascension.

If you want to download your own Bible in a Year reading plan, you can visit ascensionpress.com slash Bible in a year.

You can also subscribe to this podcast by clicking on subscribe and receiving daily episodes and daily updates.

As I said, today is day 304.

One of the things you want to note is that yesterday we had this story of Eleazar, who was willing to be a martyr rather than abandon the laws of his fathers.

Today, we have the story of the mother and her seven sons, these seven brothers.

And so it's a little bit graphic when it comes to the martyrdom that they undergo.

So in the past, people have reached out and said, hey, could you give us a heads up when there's going to be some kind of more intense scenes, maybe some PG 13 scenes?

And so this is your heads up because it is an incredible story.

But it's also, I think it's an incredible story of faithfulness and it will, you know, your kids, if you're listening with your kids.

So yeah, here we go.

Let's get 304 reading second Maccabees, chapter 7, wisdom, 3 and 4, Proverbs, chapter 24, verses 27 through 29.

The second book of the Maccabees, chapter 7, the martyrdom of the seven brothers.

It happened also that seven brothers and their mother were arrested and were being compelled by the king under torture with whips and cords to partake of unlawful swine's flesh.

One of them, acting as their spokesman said, what do you intend to ask and learn from us?

For we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our fathers.

The king fell into a rage and gave orders that pans and cauldrons be heated.

These were heated immediately and he commanded that the tongue of their spokesman be cut out and that they scalp him and cut off his hands and feet while the rest of the brothers and the mother looked on.

When he was utterly helpless, the king ordered them to take him to the fire, still breathing, and to fry him in a pan.

The smoke from the pan spread widely, but the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly saying, The Lord God is watching over us, and in truth has compassion on us.

As Moses declared in his song which bore witness against the people to their faces when he said, And he will have compassion on his servants.

After the first brother had died in this way, they brought forward the second for their sport.

They tore off the skin of his head with the hair and asked him, Will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?

He replied in the language of his fathers and said to them, No.

Therefore he in turn underwent tortures as the first brother had done.

And when he was at his last breath, he said, You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the king of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life because we have died for his laws.

After him, the third was the victim of their sport.

When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth his hands and said nobly, I got these from heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again.

As a result, the king himself and those with him were astonished at the young man's spirit, for he regarded his sufferings as nothing.

When he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way, and when he was near death he said, One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him.

But for you, there will be no resurrection to life.

Next, they brought forward the fifth and maltreated him, but he looked at the king and said, Because you have authority among men, mortal though you are, you do what you please, but do not think that God has forsaken our people.

Keep on and see how his mighty power will torture you and your descendants.

After him, they brought forward the sixth, and when he was about to die he said, Do not deceive yourself in vain, for we are suffering these things on our own account because of our sins against our own God.

Therefore astounding things have happened, but do not think that you will go unpunished for having tried to fight against God.

The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honorable memory.

Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord.

She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers.

Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman's reasoning with a man's courage and said to them, I do not know how you came into being in my womb.

It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you.

Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws.

Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt, and he was suspicious of her reproachful tone.

The youngest brother, being still alive, Antiochus not only appealed to him in words but promised with oaths that he would make him rich and enviable if he would turn from the ways of his fathers and that he would take him for his friend and entrust him with public affairs.

Since the young man would not listen to him at all, the king called the mother to him and urged her to advise the youth to save himself.

After much urging on his part, she undertook to persuade her son.

But leaning close to him, she spoke in their native tongue as follows, deriding the cruel tyrant, My son, have pity on me.

I carried you nine months in my womb and nursed you for three years and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life and have taken care of you.

I beg you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed.

Thus also mankind comes into being.

Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers.

Accept death so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers.

While she was still speaking, the young man said, What are you waiting for?

I will not obey the king's command, but I obey the command of the law that was given to our fathers through Moses.

But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God.

For we are suffering because of our own sins, and if our living Lord is angry for a little while to rebuke and discipline us, he will again be reconciled with his own servants.

But you, unholy wretch, you most defiled of all men, do not be elated in vain and puffed up by uncertain hopes.

When you raise your hand against the children of heaven, you have not yet escaped the judgment of the Almighty, all seeing God.

For our brothers, after enduring a brief suffering, have drunk of ever-flowing life under God's covenant, but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance.

I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God.

And through me and my brothers, to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty which has justly fallen on our whole nation.

The king fell into a rage and handled him worse than the others, being exasperated at his scorn.

So he died in his integrity, putting his whole trust in the Lord.

Last of all, the mother died after her sons.

But this be enough then, about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures.

The Wisdom of Solomon, Chapter 3.

The destiny of the righteous contrasted to the ungodly.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.

In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and they're going from us to be their destruction.

But they are at peace.

For though in the sight of men that they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself.

Like gold in the furnace he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of the visitation, they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble.

They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever.

Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.

But the ungodly will be punished as the reasoning deserves, who disregarded the righteous man and rebelled against the Lord.

For whoever despises wisdom and instruction is miserable, their hope is vain, their labors are unprofitable, and their works are useless.

Their wives are foolish, and their children evil, their offspring are accursed.

For blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union.

She will have fruit when God examines souls.

Blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed, and who has not devised wicked things against the Lord.

For special favor will be shown him for his faithfulness, and a place of great delight in the temple of the Lord.

For the fruit of good labors is renowned, and the root of understanding does not fail.

But the children of adulterers will not come to maturity, and the offspring of an unlawful union will perish.

Even if they live long, they will be held of no account, and finally their old age will be without honor.

If they die young, they will have no hope, and no consolation in the day of decision.

For the end of an unrighteous generation is grievous.

After four, the reward of the righteous.

Better than this is childlessness with virtue, for in the memory of virtue is immortality, because it is known both by God and by men.

When it is present, men imitate it, and they long for it when it is gone, and throughout all time it marches crowned in triumph, victor in the contest for prizes that are undefiled.

But the prolific brood of the ungodly will be of no use, and none of their illegitimate seedlings will strike a deep root or take a firm hold, for even if they put forth bows for a while, standing insecurely they will be shaken by the wind, and by the violence of the winds they will be uprooted.

The branches will be broken off before they come to maturity, and their fruit will be useless, not ripe enough to eat and good for nothing.

For children born of unlawful unions are witnesses of evil against their parents when God examines them.

But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest.

For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years, but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age.

There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up, he was caught up lest evil changes understanding or guile deceive his soul.

For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.

Being perfected in a short time he fulfilled long years, for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness.

Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God's grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.

The righteous man who has died will condemn the ungodly who are living, and youth that is quickly perfected will condemn the prolonged old age of the unrighteous man.

For they will see the end of the wise man, and will not understand what the Lord purposed for him, and for what he kept him safe.

They will see and will have contempt for him, but the Lord will laugh them to scorn.

After this they will become dishonored corpses, and an outrage among the dead forever, because he will dash them speechless to the ground and shake them from the foundations.

They will be left utterly dry and barren, and they will suffer anguish, and the memory of them will perish.

They will come with dread when their sins are reckoned up, and their lawless deeds will convict them to their face.

The Book of Proverbs, chapter 24, verses 27 through 29.

Prepare your work outside.

Get everything ready for you in the field, and after that build your house.

Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips.

Do not say, I will do to him as he has done to me.

I will pay him back for what he has done.

Father in heaven, we give you praise.

Thank you so much.

Gosh, Lord God, thank you for faithfulness.

Thank you for your faithfulness.

Help us to know how to be faithful to you.

Help us to know when it is time to give witness to you.

Help us to know when it is time to stand strong.

Help us to know when it is time to declare your goodness and your mighty works in our lives every day.

Lord God, sometimes it is difficult to know how to speak about you.

It is difficult to know when to stand strong.

Difficult to know when it is time to be quiet.

But help us to walk in wisdom.

Help us to live in your will.

Help us to always do everything we can to accomplish your will in our lives.

In Jesus' name we pray.

Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

As I said, today was kind of a PG-13 day when it came to 2nd Maccabees, chapter 7.

But it is one of my favorite chapters in Maccabees, and just not because of the torture, not because of the violence.

That's not it.

It's not because of the faithfulness, and just remarkable, right?

We talked about this before, but in 1st Maccabees there is fighting, and in 2nd Maccabees there is witnessing.

In 1st Maccabees it's all about warriors.

We're going to get to that here in 2nd Maccabees too, but so far 1st Maccabees is warriors, and 2nd Maccabees is witnesses.

And this is just absolutely key and absolutely clear.

I mean, they're, gosh, it's so hard to begin to even talk about the witness of these seven brothers and their mom.

But the witness of these seven brothers and their mom is not simply to the faithfulness that they're called to.

I talked about this in a homily not too long ago.

That is so bold that they're unwilling to compromise.

Because think about this, with Eleazar yesterday and with these seven brothers and their mom today, it was just eat a piece of pork.

That's it.

If you eat a piece of bacon, you get to go home.

That's all you have to do.

Just make one violation of the law.

That's it.

Just compromise one time, and you have the rest of your life to suspend being faithful to the Lord.

But that invitation, that temptation to compromise was absolutely and irrefutably rejected by these men and their mom.

And I love this.

I think it's the second brother when he comes forward and the king says, will you eat rather than have your body punished limb by limb?

He replied in the language of his fathers and he said to them, no, just flat out, no.

In fact, in another translation, the New American Bible translation, it says, never.

It's just like so good and so powerful.

But there's a sense of it's not just about their faithfulness.

In fact, we need to pay attention to this because these Deuteronical books, they give us so much Christian theology.

What I mean by that is you might have noticed that over the last 300 plus days, there isn't a lot of talk about the afterlife.

In Judaism, there isn't a lot of emphasis.

At least there wasn't when the Bible was being written, the Old Testament being written.

Wasn't a lot of emphasis on life after death.

It was, you go down to Sheol, go to the boat of the dead.

But in these Deuteronical books, God gives a revelation.

The revelation is about the resurrection of the dead.

Remember the Pharisees in the Sadducees, the differences, they had a couple differences.

One of those differences was the Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the dead and the Sadducees did not.

That's why they were sad, you see?

But here in Maccabees and in wisdom, what we see is this proclamation of the fact that, no, we believe in the resurrection of the dead.

We believe in life after death, which is not emphasized in much of the other scriptures in the Old Testament.

And so there's this revelation here where every one of these men and their mom, they can come forward with confidence, with faith, knowing that this is not the end.

And this is so important for us because in our day and age, we are surrounded by people and sometimes it affects our hearts that we see this world, this life as the only world and the only life as opposed to realizing, no, this is a real life.

This is a real world.

It's good.

God made it.

It's a gift to us.

But this is not the only world.

This is not the only life.

This is almost like, almost what you could say, this is called pre-life, where, yes, it's real life, obviously, but it's pre-life because we are made for this world, but we're not made for this world.

We're made for this world in the same way that a car is made for the road, right?

That sense of the road gets you to the destination.

And here is this world that's good.

It's been given to us.

It's broken.

But it's not our home.

It's not our ultimate home.

And in Second Maccabees and in Wisdom, this is reiterated again and again.

Two quick notes.

One about Second Maccabees and the other one about Wisdom.

At the end of Second Maccabees, Chapter 7, there's something so powerful, right?

So after all these seven men die, their mom dies, the last line, in Verse 42 of the author, right, the narrator says, let this be enough then about the eating of sacrifices and the extreme tortures.

In fact, I have another translation that basically says, okay, that's the end.

That's enough.

You know, I mean, that's what they're saying here.

That's enough.

We're not talking about these tortures to, like, excite anybody.

We are talking about them because of the witness that was given.

And there's something about that that's just so powerful because you realize that the author here, he himself was moved.

And so hopefully us as listeners, as readers, as students of God's Word, are also moved.

Like, enough, enough then about this violence, about this talking, about this death and destruction.

But in the wisdom of Solomon, you guys, oh my gosh.

So Chapter 3 of the wisdom of Solomon, the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and no torment will ever touch them.

In the eyes of the foolish, they seem to have died.

This is so key.

This is one of my favorite readings for when I get to participate in funerals.

If the family comes forward and says, what do you recommend for the Old Testament reading?

I say wisdom, Chapter 3.

Gosh, I'll read it again just because it's worth us to meditate on this because it is such a powerful word about not just how do we view death as Christians, but how do we also view what God's involvement in this?

Okay, here it goes.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God.

Those who have died are in the righteous and the hand of God.

And no torment will ever touch them.

In the eyes of the foolish, they seem to have died.

Right?

Those people who are looking as if this world is the only world.

In the eyes of the foolish, they seem to have died and their departure was thought to be an affliction and they're going from us to be their destruction.

But they are at peace.

For though in the sight of man they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good because God tested them and found them worthy of himself.

Like gold in the furnace he tried them and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of their visitation, they will shine forth and will run like sparks through the stubble.

It goes on to say, they will govern nations and rule over peoples and the Lord will reign over them forever.

This is, gosh you guys, this is so, so important because it talks about our hope.

Our hope is Christians.

It talks about our hope for eternal life and also talks about a purification process.

And so we're going to get that even more when it comes to 2nd Maccabees chapter 12 where there's a purification process after death that as Catholics in Orthodox we call it purgatory or this place of purification.

It's basically the idea that there are things that our hearts are attached to in this life, that they can't be attached to in eternal life.

And so there's this process of purification where God allows us to be made ready for heaven.

And here is this piece here, like gold in the furnace he tried them.

Like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of the visitation they will shine forth, they will run like sparks through stubble.

Like that sense of just being purified is so powerful.

But going on, the reality of death and how we as Christians must see death is talked about later on where if you were in the Old Testament for the most part, if you wanted to be blessed, some signs of blessing are old age or a lot of kids.

And now those are real blessings.

In fact, I think in our culture we don't necessarily see children as blessings as much as there may be liabilities, but they aren't.

They are, well, they are, I guess, their liabilities in some ways, right?

Okay, so, but at the same time, even more so are they blessings?

And even more so is a long life of blessing.

And yet, in light of eternity, in light of immortality, in light of the resurrection of the dead, here is what chapter 3 says.

It says, blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union.

Basically, here's a woman who doesn't have any children, but she's blessed if she is, you know, righteous, if she's virtuous.

Gozondas say in verse 14, blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed.

So again, gosh, imagine in that Old Testament culture, in the Jewish culture, someone who was a eunuch, someone who's made incapable of having children, that they would be seen as second class.

In fact, I don't know if I believe it's the case that a eunuch couldn't participate fully in the worship in the temple.

And yet, here is God's word saying, and blessed also is the eunuch whose hands have done no lawless deed, who has not devised wicked things against the Lord, for special favor will be shown him for his faithfulness and a place of great delight in the temple of the Lord.

This is like part of the wisdom of when we don't have wisdom in our canon, we lose so much of this wisdom, the wisdom of God, the inspired word of God.

Oh, gosh, and it just, there is something, sorry, I keep being exasperated or being kind of like me saying all these things, but it's at the same time, it is such a gift to us.

Goes on to talk about the reality of even if they live long, those who are evil, even if they live long, they'll be held of no account.

And finally, their old age will be without honor.

Goes on to say that better to die young as a righteous person than to live a long life as an unrighteous person.

Why?

Because of eternity.

Because there's more to this life than just this life.

There's more to life than just this life.

Does that make sense?

I hate to, I'm sorry for kind of reiterating this over and over again, but it is so important for us to realize that here we are in Second Maccabees and here we are in the book of wisdom that gives us as Christians such a lens for looking at this life.

And one of the key things to take away is there is more to life than just this life.

But God has us in the palm of His hand.

And so that means that even if we have a short life, better a short life lived righteously, lived virtuously than a long life squandered.

Better again, as they said, to be childless than it is to be unrighteous or vicious.

At the same time, children are a blessing and long life is a blessing as well.

So we pray for all of those things, right?

We pray for children, for those couples that long for children.

We pray for long life for all of us and for those who long for a long life, but above everything else, the highest priority, the highest value is God Himself.

For a short life where we choose God than a long life where we don't choose God.

Does that make sense?

I hope it makes sense.

Gosh, but what a day.

What an incredible gift we have been given today with our readings.

I am just, that's enough of me.

You guys, I'm Frank for you.

Please pray for me.

My name's Father Mike.

I cannot wait to see you tomorrow.

God bless.