Nov 6, 2010

32 nd Sunday - "They are like angels . . ."

2 Mc 7: 1-2,9-14
2 Thes 2: 16-35
Luke 20: 27-38

In 1954 there was a musical film entitled, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The film was about the transformation of mountain men, who had little success in finding a wife, to men who were more conforming to the sensitivities of a woman. They needed to drop the crude behavior and become more mannerly in order to attract a future spouse. Unless they were willing to find a better way of life, they would never find a bride.

Well, you can imagine what a plot that might ensue. The Gospel of Luke 20: 27-38 for this Sunday poses a similar scenario. The Sadducees, not with particular respect for Jesus, who did not believe in a future resurrection, pose a potentially absurd situation about a woman who married seven husbands, all of which died, and the question of, “Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?”

It was only about 200 years before Jesus that the idea of a resurrected life began to emerge. The first reading from Maccabees implies that only the just will rise, not the wicked. The Gospel story has the Sadducees almost mocking the entire notion of a future destiny.

Jesus, however, does not fall into their trap but rather expands the understanding of the relationship between the resurrected life and this life we now live in. Jesus states essentially that the resurrected life is not an extension of this one. Rather, it is a kind of transformation; a new life: “ . . . 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. . . for they are like angels; . . .”

So, now towards end of this liturgical year and in the month of November, we reflect about our future. What do we believe? Maybe we open our minds a bit here and step into a world beyond this one to imagine another type of reality that is not constrained by space, time, and the laws of the natural world. If there is no way to prove that life does not continue beyond this one, then it is possible that it does. This is where faith speaks to us.

We believe that life does not end; that we will continue to live. But, that once our bodies end their life here, Jesus offers us a little indication today of what the future will be like. He says, “They are like angels.” Angels are pure spirits so our future has something to do with an existence outside of space and time; a place of pure spirit but an existence where we remain who we are.

Well, it gets to be quite a challenge. We have no experience of a resurrection. It is beyond science and only in the realm of faith. We may have known someone who was declared clinically dead at the scene of an accident but survived; or someone who was in a vegetative state, then suddenly became conscious; or someone who was comatose for a period of time but then unexpectedly began to respond to outside stimulus. As amazing as they may be, none of these experiences are resurrection. They are a kind of resuscitation; a coming back to this life. Not even Lazarus was resurrected. Yes, he was certainly dead and was brought back to life but he died again.

Only Christ Jesus has truly been resurrected and each Easter season we may struggle to comprehend what that means. It’s clear the Gospel writers themselves struggled to put the experience into words. Resurrection is transformation; a change of existence but yet familiar enough to witness in the flesh and we proclaim in our Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead.”

Maybe the bottom line here is what connection is there between this life and the next? It seems to mean that although life continues, it takes two forms: material and spiritual.

We believe that the way we live now, will somehow continue into eternity. The choices we make now affect our future. Not just in this life but into the next.

The reading from Maccabees reminds us that the choice for God above everything is the best choice we can make. One of the brothers says: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him . . .”

This offers us a perspective. That we should look at this life as pure gift that ultimately calls us to deeper trust in God and to believe that God’s desire is that we find that ultimate union with him in eternity. Letting go and growing in faith and trust sets the right direction to follow.

The Eucharist we celebrate and the Word of God we hear offer us that road map and the spiritual strength to achieve this salvation.