1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Psalm 96:1, 3-5, 11-13
O sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it.
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming,
for he is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with his truth.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Today’s first reading is often heard at funerals to comfort mourners. The promise is that if we believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead, we will rise again. Even those who are alive at the Lord’s coming will rise if they have believed.
The gospel relays what happened when Jesus read the Isaiah scroll that prophesied the coming Messiah and affirmed its fulfillment. Though it was a promise of good things: Sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and good news for the poor, the people in the temple would not receive it. Jesus reminded them about the way prophets had been treated in the past but it only made them angry. They could not accept a local carpenter’s son as the promised Messiah.
How many people do not want to believe in the ordinary presence of God in our midst? Atheists will exalt creation and the planet, yet fail to see God in the fields and trees. People look for answers in astrology and fortune-telling yet fail to see the awesome power of God in the heavens. If God is not praised where he can be seen, how are people going to be able to praise him when he comes on the clouds at the trumpet blast?
Faith in Jesus will not only keep us from despairing when our loved ones die before us, it will help us to see him in our lives and in the other problems we face day to day. If we believe in Jesus Christ, our lives will have a new direction and purpose as we serve him and prepare for his return at whatever time it happens to be.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, this life is short and uncertain. Only faith in Jesus can give me the hope and strength that I need to do your will, and carry through to the end of this life. May I receive the fullness of your promise: To have eyes to see, ears to hear, freedom from bondage and sin, your favor, and the anointing of your Holy Spirit. Amen.