life and love never end

Sadducees were the chief religious authorities among the Jewish people. They were strict adherents of the Torah, the Law of Moses, or the Pentateuch, that is the first five books of both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles.

Jesus and the Sadducees

Jesus and the Sadducees

The Sadducees held a very conservative understanding of Scripture and did not consider the books of the Prophets, the writings of the Mishnah, or oral Tradition to be of any valid concern. Since they found no clear teaching on life after death or resurrection in the Torah, they did not subscribe to those Pharisaic doctrines. And that, so we are told, is why they were sad, you see.

Jesus told the Sadducees and us that our God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” What does that tell us then? First, we ought to recognize that our religion is not a religion of death but of resurrection and life, and second, we should know and understand that only the living can have a God.

God is God of the living. He knows that we can never die; that we will live on from the moment of our conception for all eternity. We humans have a difficult time accepting this for we see life as brief and temporary: we are born, we live, and then we die. We don’t, won’t, or can’t see what exists beyond the grave. But we should at least ask what is the nature of the relationship, the connection between life ever after and life here and now?

There are many who believe there is a profound discontinuity between this life and the next. They see it as an either / or proposition: either be happy in this life and miserable in the next or miserable in this one in order to attain eternal happiness in the next.

There are then those who see nothing beyond this earthly life. They are the ones who contend that any notion of an afterlife, of a heaven, is a pipe-dream or so much “pie in the sky” imaginative nonsense. They say we should live this life without hope of heaven or eternal life with God. Their motto is “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die and that’s all folks.”

Yet there is another choice, a far better one, which assumes there is no discontinuity between this life and the next. There is just life unending; a portion of our life is temporal and physical while another portion is eternal and spiritual.

If we have but one life to live, now and forever, then it would seem that how we live temporally in the here and now must determine how we will always live. In other words, how we live our lives while on this earth, so shall we live eternally, outside the limits of space and time.

The promise of our destiny is in how we live in the here and now. If we choose to live selfishly, living only for ourselves, caring for no one except ourselves, then why should we expect to live differently after our temporal life is at its end? We alone determine our heaven or our hell.

In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis’ parable of heaven and hell, people are confronted with the choices they make. Those who cling to their fears, who hold for dear life their resentments, who refuse to let go of their prisons, can only be given what they endlessly demand: they are unable to accept the endless joys of heaven and thus choose of their own accord to return to hell.

Those, however, who lived their lives in hope and trust, who lived in the loving arms of God, will live on just the same. For them life will continue as before, without pain or sorrow, only love for all eternity.

Now the Sadducees clearly wished to challenge Jesus by presenting a hypothetical case of a woman with seven husbands. Did Jesus believe in the Torah or did he side with the Pharisees and accept their belief in the resurrection? To their way of thinking for him to do so would in effect subject Moses to ridicule. Jesus not only turns the Torah against them but adds insult to injury in the process.

The problem with the Sadducees is that they couldn’t imagine anything bigger or better than the small world they knew. In that world, a man needs a wife and gets a wife and certainly hopes not to share her with anybody. But, they think, if there were a resurrection of the dead, then any man whose wife outlived him and remarried would find that in heaven his wife had another husband in addition to him. Since that is plainly an intolerable thought, there can’t be any such thing as heaven.

When you see their view this way, it seems so childish. They are like a child who reacts with dismay when he is told that he won’t be sucking his thumb when he grows up.1

Jesus responds to their challenge: “The children of this age marry and remarry; but 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.” People aren’t married in heaven because they are like the angels of God, who are eternal beings and thus have no cause to marry.

He tells them, quite directly, of the facts of life and the necessity for reproduction. “Thus, gentlemen, there will no longer be any need to reproduce for humans only do that to ensure the continuity of the race.”

He then tells them that those who are deemed worthy of the resurrection will be immortal. “They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.” The Sadducees did not believe in angels or spirits.

Now of course Jesus offers that Moses himself provides the proof of resurrection in the passage of the burning bush, where God describes himself as “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Obviously these three patriarchs were long deceased by Moses’ time.

How, you might ask, does that prove there is life after death? Since it would be meaningless for God to declare himself in relationship with persons who have no existence, then Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob must still exist with respect to God.

God has revealed himself in biblical experience as the God of the living. In biblical history, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, God enters into a personal relationship with each of us and that relationship cannot and will never be destroyed.

Ron Rolheiser writes:

As Christians we believe that the dead are still alive, still themselves and, very importantly, still in a living, conscious, and loving relationship with us and with each other. That’s our common concept of heaven and, however simplistic its popular expression at times, it is wonderfully correct. That’s exactly what Christian faith and Christian dogma, not to mention deep intuitive experience, invite us to. After death we live on, conscious, self-conscious, in communication with others who have died before us, in communion with those we left behind on earth, and in communion with the divine itself. That’s the Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints.

As Christians, we believe that we are given eternal life through Jesus’ death. Among other images, the Gospels express that in this metaphor: Jesus death, they tell us, ‘opened the tombs’ and emptied graveyards. For this reason, Christians have never had a huge cult around cemeteries. As Christians, we don’t do much in the way of spiritual practices around our cemeteries. Why? Because we believe all those graves are empty. Our loved ones aren’t there and aren’t to be found there. They’re with Jesus.2

Adding to this thought is this, “Hoping against hope, we affirm that they have fallen not into nothingness but into the embrace of the living God. And that is where we can find them again; when we open our hearts to the silent calmness of God’s own life in which we dwell, not by selfishly calling them back to where we are, but by descending into the depth of our own hearts where God also abides.3

There is great comfort in knowing that those whom we love now gone are yet among the living; in knowing that life is more than the brevity of time, but eternally timeless.

Saint Paul may have said it best: “Neither death nor life … will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4 Amen.

 

Homily #094
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time — Cycle C
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14
2 Thessalonians 2:16—3.5
Luke 20:27-38


1 Eleonore Stump, The Real Thing, The Sunday Website of St. Louis University.
2 Ron Rolheiser, In Exile: Gospel Challenge, The Sunday Website of St. Louis University.
3 Ron Rolheiser, In Exile: Gospel Challenge.
4 Rom 8:39.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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