Thirty-Second Sunday, Ordinary Time
Cycle “C” – 2019
A woman accompanied her husband to the doctor’s office for his annual physical. Afterwards the doctor asked to see her privately. “Your husband is a very sick man,” the doctor told her. “His heart could give out at any moment. If you want to keep him alive, you’ve got to shelter him from all anxiety and stress. Don’t argue or disagree with him. Do whatever he asks. Watch the games with him on TV. Give him a little romance, No matter what, you’ve got to keep him calm and relaxed. His life is in your hands!”
The wife left the doctor’s office, rejoined her husband, and then drove home. “Well, honey,” asked the husband, “what did the doctor say?”
“He said you’re going to die!”
In today’s gospel, some Sadducees confronted Jesus. The Sadducees were a sect of very pious Jews who believed that death was the end of existence; and that there is NO RESURRECTION. (Which is very sad, indeed.) — Anyway, these Sadducees posed what they thought was a “trick question” for Jesus: “The laws of Moses state that, if a man dies without children, the man’s brother shall marry the widow and the children they have together, will legally belong to the dead man, to carry on his name.” (This was called the “Levirate Law” and is found in the Book of Deuteronomy [25:5]. Its purpose was to keep the property within the family!) — “We know of a family of seven brothers,” continued the Sadducees. “The oldest married and died without any children. His brother married the widow, but then, he too died, childless! And so it went. One after another, the brothers married the widow, and all died without children. Finally the widow died! Now here is OUR QUESTION: ‘Whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven brothers had been married to her!”
And even though Jesus knew that it was a TRICK QUESTION; he patiently answered the Sadducees by ASSURING his would-be detractors that their question posed a “NON-ISSUE,” because: RESURRECTION belongs to a NEW and RADICALLY DIFFERENT REALM OF BEING! —————— BECAUSE, Resurrection is NOT “Resuscitation”! Resurrection is not a mere continuation of life as we now know it! THAT’S WHY Jesus says: “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. THEY CAN NO LONGER DIE, for they are LIKE ANGELS; and they are the CHILDREN OF GOD.”
Jesus makes TWO very important points here. FIRST of all, the life of the resurrection is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from our present existence, so it is pointless to ask questions from the perspective of our present, limited way of understanding. — In a word, Jesus is inviting his detractors to: “think outside the box!” — In the time of the resurrection, we will all be the CHILDREN OF GOD and ONE FAMILY, so the giving and taking in marriage will no longer make any sense or have any place!
And, the SECOND point that Jesus makes is that this new and totally different life will be ETERNAL! — Those who experience the resurrection, says Jesus, are “LIKE ANGELS!” (Note that Jesus does not say they “become” angels.) Jesus is merely making the point that like angels, those who enjoy resurrected life WILL NOT DIE ANYMORE! Those who enjoy resurrected life are IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD FOREVER! — Jesus calls them “CHILDREN OF GOD.” (Because, just as their parents gave them the gift of life in THIS world; GOD is the one who will give them the gift of NEW LIFE in the WORLD TO COME!)
Jesus then goes on to back up his claims by using the ONLY AUTHORITY that the Sadducees recognized as valid – and held “near and dear,” the authority of the Scriptures! — Using the Book of Exodus, Jesus says to the doubting Sadducees, “Why, even the writings of Moses himself prove this. Because when Moses described how God appeared to him in the burning bush, he spoke of God as saying, “I AM the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” — (For a Jew to say that the Lord IS a person’s God means that person is ALIVE, not dead! — So, from God’s point of view, (Jesus concludes), “those who have died – ARE ALIVE!”)
While we all wonder WHAT WILL HEAVEN BE LIKE?; JESUS DOESN’T TELL US! He does, however, provide us with a very important part of the puzzle — the part about RELATIONSHIPS. Jesus tells us, that relationships in heaven will NOT have the LIMITATIONS that we experience here on earth. — That’s why people will NOT NEED to MARRY one another in heaven! (On EARTH we need marriage because marriage provides for the PROCREATION and RAISING of children and the CONTINUATION of the human race! — Marriage gives children the stable environment they need in which to grow to maturity. — But, this NEED will NOT EXIST in heaven!)
On earth – marriage also ASSURES husband and wife MUTUAL SUPPORT as they face the struggles of life together; but this kind of support will not be necessary in the life to come. —
In the life we now enjoy, we are LIMITED! We can only fully love a handful of people, because of our human limitations. But, in heaven, those limitations will no longer exist! — We will not be jealous of one another’s love – (we won’t have to have a BFF [“Best Friend Forever”] who loves us, and us alone) – since we will be COMPLETELY SECURE IN GOD’S LOVE and COMPLETELY SECURE IN OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.
All speculation aside, however, it all boils down to is THIS: the life of heaven is a MYSTERY! – It is beyond our understanding, because it will be VERY DIFFERENT from our present experience! — HEAVEN is the ULTIMATE LEAP OF FAITH! It MEANS TRUSTING that GOD will PROVIDE whatever we will need to make us HAPPY!
In his book, “The Problem of Pain,” C.S. Lewis said, “We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning Heaven. We are afraid of the jeers about “pie in the sky,” and of being told that we are trying to escape the duty of making a happy world here and now, into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. BUT, either there IS “a heaven,” or there IS NOT! If there IS NOT, then Christianity is FALSE, (for [the life of heaven] is woven into its very fabric.) (BUT), if there IS (a life to come), then THIS TRUTH, like any other, must be faced!”
……….(BUT), if there IS (a life to come), then THIS TRUTH, like any other, must be faced!” If, Jesus came to REVEAL to us the way that things ARE; then we’d better “LISTEN UP!”
A child once asked if there will be desserts and hamsters in heaven. The wise reply that was given was this: “If you WANT desserts and hamsters in heaven, then, they’ll be there!” This answer was not an evasion of the child’s question, but, rather, a witness to the TRUTH that IN HEAVEN no felt needs or longings will go unsatisfied.
We’re NOT SURE what our wants will actually BE, in heaven, except that, FIRST and FOREMOST we will want to be with the Lord, always! (1 Thess. 4:17)
And FINALLY, if Jesus didn’t tell us much about Heaven, if he didn’t dwell on the life to come, it was because He knew that if we take care of our business in this world; then heaven will take care of itself! —- Christian faith is about LIVING! — It is about LOVING GOD and LOVING OTHER PEOPLE as we LOVE OURSELVES! — It is NOT, (nor was it ever meant to be) – about being so fixated on the next world that we ignore our responsibilities in this one!
In truth, it makes no difference whether we’re black, brown, yellow or white. It makes no difference whether we’re rich or poor or middle class — whether we’re people of great acclaim or nobodies! — The mortality rate is still the same — 100 percent! — Eventually, the grim reaper will take us all!
The GOOD NEWS, however, and the CORE of today’s GOSPEL lesson is THIS: “Those who are joined with Christ will live with him for all eternity! Jesus Christ was victorious over the grave. And, because Jesus Christ lives, WE TOO SHALL LIVE!