Vol.6 No.9 DoM Gospel Reflection
32nd Sunday Ordinary Time—November 6, 2016
By Audrey Patterson
We need some background information to truly understand this passage. It concerns the Sadducees who were mostly wealthy, powerful Jews who held high positions in the temple and the political arena. They were very concerned with politics and accommodated the Romans. They held a majority on the Sanhedrin but were not popular with the people.
The story itself really begins in Luke 19:45 when Jesus cleanses the temple. With this action he becomes a political problem as well as a religious one. The Pharisees and Sadducees unite, although they were adversaries, and plot to put Jesus to death.
What follows are questions known as the “Honor Challenges”. These were questions they devised to trip Jesus up in front of the people. The first one questions the authority of Jesus. “By what authority do you do these things? Who is it that gave you authority?” Jesus refuses to answer this directly but tells them instead the parable of the wicked tenants. Later they question him by asking “Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar?” And Jesus answers “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God, the things that are Gods.” The reading today, the third Honor Challenge, is about the resurrection.
Jerusalem the city of destiny was not far away and His death was close at hand. This event, told only in Luke’s gospel, is very important for it gave Jesus the opportunity to explain that because of the resurrection the dead, those deemed worthy would be raised to a life beyond this world and they would be with God in the heavenly realm. This knowledge enabled Jesus to face death without fear.
The Sadducees accepted only the first 5 books of Hebrew scripture – the Torah – which are attributed to Moses, the one to whom God had revealed the Law. They believed that there was no teaching about the resurrection in these 5 books so they refused to believe in it. They did however believe that God had promised the land and blessings to Abraham and his descendants. Though death would deny them that promise, they would share in it through their off spring. Given this view, children and therefore marriage were of utmost importance to them. To trip Jesus up they present the strange scenario of the seven brothers and the widow who each of them marry. The question was at the resurrection whose wife would she be?
Jesus dismissed their question firmly denying it assumptions. Jesus said people of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are worthy to attain the next age and the resurrection from the dead neither marry or are given in marriage. Nor are they able to die any more. They are similar to angels and are children of God since they share in the resurrection.
For the Sadducees their horizon extended no further than death. For them death was final and this view totally distorted the way they looked at life. Jesus saw beyond death. Death was a doorway to continuing a more wonderful life. In that future people would be similar to angels in that they would not marry in order to produce heirs. Instead they would be children of God sharing the life of God in their new risen state.
In the well-known incident of the burning bush, God revealed himself to Moses for the first time as the God of his ancestors. Jesus used this event to affirm his profound faith in God as a loving God of all ages. God is not the God of the dead but of the living. As far as God is concerned everyone is living. God is life itself. Human death is irrelevant to God, because it is simply the passage from one mode of life to another.
Jesus knew he was on his way to death. But he knew death was a step forward to a more wonderful resurrected mode of living; from the limited human experience of God to the unimaginable vision of God in the resurrected eternal life. With this confidence Jesus could face His own death with no fear.
What does this passage promise to us?
Heaven is a state of utter and absolute fulfillment. In the beatific vision, the blessed will experience what cannot be put into words; a radical union with God that transcends anything we could imagine. And it is precisely because of that radical union with God in Christ, the blessed will also experience a union with others as members of the Body of Christ that transcends our ability to imagine as well. The Beatific Vision is the most important component of what heaven is:
I John 3:2 says we will be “like Him for we shall see him as he is.” St Thomas Aquinas helps us to get a sense of the glory of this ‘vision of God’. According to Thomas, our intellects will be so illuminated by God that we will be empowered to ‘see God’ in the beatific vision and to see and understand ‘the whole order of the universe’. This is why Jesus tells us over and over to “fear not”, “be not afraid”.
Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1023, 2040
Benedictus Deus, Pope Benedict XII
Homilies by Fr John McKinnon
Ignatius Study Bible, page 89