Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle C, November 10, 2019
“Sons and Daughters of the Resurrection”
by Rev. Jack R. Miller
We would think it foolish to set out on a journey without knowing where we were going. In a broad sense, of course, our pilgrimage through life is largely a path into the unknown, a journey towards the destiny God sets for us. But imagine living with no hope other than the reality of this world and this time. What if the faith you embraced was built on only selected passages and a limited vision of God and the relationship God has with humankind? A faith that believes everything ends with your passing with no promise of eternity. Welcome to the world of the Sadducees.
In our Gospel reading today we are introduced to this group of the priests who made up the governing class of Judaism at the time of Jesus' earthly ministry. They were very conservative in matters of religion. The Sadducees were completely against innovation in religion and opposed any new thinking. Unlike the Pharisees, the other main group of Jesus' adversaries, the Sadducees dismissed the oral tradition and any doctrinal developments not specified in the Pentateuch. They did not recognize the thousands of detailed regulations and ritualistic practices that the Pharisees embraced. They also rejected the notion of angels or spirits, the idea of a messiah, and denied the concept of an afterlife and a resurrection of the dead.
A trick question was put to Jesus in the form of a cynical riddle. His critics questioned the existence of an after-life by the implausible tale of a woman who outlived her seven husbands, to embarrass Jesus and test his wits. In the afterlife, presumably we will be free of the needs and appetites of our present experience. We will be like children in God’s presence, fully content, no longer needing what we need in this world.
Notice how Jesus very cleverly moves beyond the hopeless scenario presented by the Sadducees. Their problem is that they cannot think beyond earthly reality. The afterlife is not merely an extension or imitation of life on earth. Resurrected life is something totally different. We often try to gauge God by our standards, to measure God by our yardsticks, to define God by our systems of reasoning and understanding. In this we too can become a modern-day Sadducee. But the God revealed by Jesus defies our explanations and designs. Our response to Jesus' call to be his disciples begins with opening our minds and spirits to become what God intends us to be.
To become “sons and daughters of the resurrection” we must embrace the Gospel vision of love of neighbor as brothers and sisters in Christ; all of us as children of God. Resurrection is the promise and hope of our faith as Christians. Resurrection is also an attitude, a perspective for approaching life and sorting out the decisions and complexities of our earthly existence. In dying to our own worst impulses, disappointments, and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness, we can rise to the heights of the life and love God intended creation to experience.
Because God is the God of the living, we encounter God in the presence of all who are in communion with God. Each Sunday in the Eucharistic prayer, we recite “Holy, Holy, Holy” with the Risen Lord and with all who are alive in him. It is an affirmation that our life as God’s children does not end with death. The God taught by Jesus in the Gospel is the God of life, a God whose limitless love put us and all of creation in motion. God will not just love us in this life, but for all eternity. To become “children of the God of life” is to set in place the justice, peace and forgiveness that are the building stones of the Kingdom of God. As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians (2:9), no human being has ever seen, heard, or even imagined what wonderful things God has in store for those who love the Lord. This is God's free gift to you and me; let us embrace that gift.