32nd SUNDAY-C- November 6, 2022
2 Maccabees 7: 1-2, 9-14; Ps 17;
2 Thessalonians 2: 16- 3:5; Luke 20: 27-38
by Jude Siciliano, OP
The Sadducees put a question to Jesus about the resurrection. They claim there was no such doctrine in the Torah. Their rivals, the Pharisees, influenced by the Book of Daniel, did believe in the resurrection. In Luke’s gospel Jesus, like the Pharisees, alluded to the teachings of the Torah concerning the resurrection. "That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush...." Even though the Gospels show the Pharisees opposed to Jesus in many areas of faith and practice still, in the first century, Christians and Pharisees were aligned in their teaching about the resurrection of the dead.
Luke opens his account describing the Sadducees’ belief, "… those who denied that there is a resurrection." They pose a question to Jesus. We often ask questions to get information, or understanding about someone. But the Sadducees are not sincerely asking for information from Jesus, nor are they ready to engage in a conversation with him. They are setting a trap, they already have their position on the subject. They want to start a debate and put Jesus on the defensive by posing an absurd example about a widow who has had seven husbands. When she dies, they ask, whose wife will she be in the next life?
The ancient law required that if a man died without leaving an heir his brother was to take the widow as his wife. Thus, the family name would continue and property would stay in the family.
Jesus answers the question by drawing a distinction between this age and the next. Heaven and earth, he argues, are not the same. God’s ways are different from ours. God does not think the way we do; nor does God judge like us. No matter what state a person had in their lifetime, even the lowliest will be ranked with the angels Despite their suffering in this life, he says, "They can no longer die, for they are like angels and they are God’s children, because they are the ones who will rise." Unlike our world, where people are judged by their political, financial, social and educational ranking, in heaven, such rankings will not exist.
There is a religious debate going on in this passage. It can sound very hypothetical to the casual listener. The casual "male listener," that is. But if a woman heard the question posed by the Sadducees it would not sound so theoretical. She, and women in our congregation, would hear of a woman being passed among seven men for the purpose of bearing a child.
In heaven, Jesus says, no such mistreatment, or dehumanization exist. Those treated as inferior in this life will, with everyone else, be loved. Women will no longer be treated as property, nor be considered as inferiors at the will of their male relations, or religious authorities. They will be honored and beloved children of God and will share equally with all the joy and peace God bestows on God’s children.
Jesus ends the debate by saying, "God is not God of the dead, but of the living for to [God] all are alive." All will be new then with God; all will be forgiven; all will be free. There will be no more human power brokers, military brass, strong men over everyone else, etc. Nor will there be sexism, racism, homophobia, or oppression of any sort.
We must do all we can to eliminate suffering of any kind. In the heaven Jesus describes for us today, the God of the living will end how it has always been for so many in this world. Jesus proposes a vision that gives hope to those who are oppressed and suffering. Still, he does not relieve us from the obligations to be instruments of his new life to all, beginning here and now. Why? Because, to repeat, "God is not God of the dead, but of the living for to [God] all are alive." Our mission, by word and deed, is to help others see themselves as children of our living God, who gives life to all who believe.
Jesus has shown by his words and actions that God is the God of the pressed-down and forgotten. God does not forsake anyone facing death, nor does God abandon anyone after death. Here on earth God strengthens the weak and neglected and enables them to walk towards the hope Jesus holds out for all – resurrection. The Sadducees are basing their argument on the notion that the next life is just a continuation of this life. They were wrong and Jesus corrects them. He does not tell them what the future life will be like. He just says that it will be different. What will endure is our relationship with God.
The reading from 2 Maccabees also speaks of resurrection. It does not happen automatically because we have an immortal soul. Resurrection rests on God’s fidelity. God has established a permanent covenant with us and even death cannot destroy it. Maccabees professes that God desires to stay united with us. Again, God is the God of the living. We use metaphors to describe what God has waiting for us. We base them on what we can guess from our present life here: thrones, golden streets, feasts, angelic musicians, God on a throne of high, etc. These are feeble attempts to point to the mysterious reality God has waiting for us. So, we shrug our shoulders and say to God, "I don’t know… but you do."
If that’s our future, what should we be doing in the meanwhile? With the grace God is already giving us we can live as though the new age has already dawned. Because it has! We allow the future to happen in our world now. We should examine how we treat others who don’t have our privilege and opportunities. Stop being exclusionary to those who are different from us. Do our best to raise up and empower "others." Make present in some way, what we are hoping for in our future life with God.
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