How ridiculous we can be sometimes when we argue an indefensible position! Children might argue that ice cream makes them strong. Teens might argue that drugs help them to feel alive. Adults might argue that cheating on their tax return is just keeping Uncle Sam from wasting their money. Taken to extremes, this was of persuasion is reductio ad absurdum – arguments showing a position cannot be true by showing its implications are not defendable. In this weekend’s Gospel, Saint Luke presents us with an altercation between Jesus and the Sadducees about life after death. This is an interesting reductio ad absurdum. By having seven brothers all marry the same woman and die in succession, the Sadducees are trying to show that the very concept of life after death is absurd. How very wrong they are!
Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem, facing His own imminent death and resurrection. Already in Saint Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has predicted His death and resurrection (Luke 9:22, 9:44, 18:32-33). Resurrection is not simply coming back to life. It is the eternal fullness of life. For the Sadducees, one’s immortality was contingent on having children (see, for example, Gen 38:8 or Deut 25:5-6), the tradition and context of their argument about marrying and remarrying taken to extremes. Jesus answers them by asserting that there is no marriage and remarriage in heaven because there is no dying in heaven. In heaven, “all are alive,” in perfect union with God. The proof of Jesus’ truth is His own resurrection, His own perfect union with His Father. The promise of Jesus’ truth is our resurrection, our perfect union with God, our eternal fullness of Life.
Belief in the resurrection brings us to encounter the God “of the living,” for whom “all are alive.” We cannot argue eternal Life because it is beyond our experience. We cannot argue eternal Life because it is mystery, promise, gift. The basis for this belief is hope. Although hope always has a future orientation about it, when we have confidence in God’s grace to bring about change in us, when we have patience with ourselves while that change comes about, we already have something of the future in the present – we already are living this new, risen Life which is characterized by faithful relationship with God … union with God. The union enabled by risen Life is that of being “children of God” in an everlasting relationship with the living God. This is the core of our hope, borne out by the daily choices we make to be faithful followers of Jesus.
Living the Paschal Mystery means that live this life in a way that infuses it with the Life that is to come. The dying part of the mystery always reminds us that suffering and death pale in comparison to the categorically new Life that God offers us in Christ.
When we faithfully live our Christian life, like the brothers in the First Reading, we will meet with controversy. In fact, controversy may be a sign of integrity since truly living the Gospel always precipitates conflict, because Gospel values are so contrary to human selfishness and pride. This doesn’t mean that we go out looking for controversy. It does mean that when controversy happens because of the authenticity of our Christian living, we see through the controversy with hope for eternal Life. This hope is what gives us the courage of our convictions and helps us remain steadfast even to death. And through death to resurrection.
May Saint Michael the Archangel defend, guide, protect, and intercede for us always!
~ Fr. Larry