The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homily: Wednesday, 9th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: 2 Tim 1:6-12; Ps 123; Mk 12:18-27

For someone who was offering His hearers redemption and eternal life, Jesus certainly had to put up with a lot during His public ministry. Of course, that’s the thing about the Good News that Jesus preached: For many folks it was too good…too good to be true. At least that’s what the local religious leaders seemed to think – both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Because they couldn’t believe, despite all the miracles they’d witnessed, they had to discredit the One who delivered the message. Herod had already taken care of John the Baptist; now it was time to take care of Jesus Himself. Now it was time to take the so-called Good News that Jesus preached, and turn it into bad news.

In yesterday’s Gospel passage we saw the Pharisees and Herodians trying to trap Jesus; today it’s the Sadducees. These Sadducees, though, are a different breed. The Sadducees were a definite minority, but a significant and influential minority. Their ranks included wealthy landowners and merchants as well as those who collaborated with Rome. And the Sanhedrin, that governing body of the Jews, included many Sadducees.

In one respect they were the pragmatists of their day, the ones who didn’t want to rock the boat and risk upsetting their nicely settled lives. Actually, they were pretty similar to many of today’s politicians.

Religious minimalists, they accepted only the Torah, the first five books of Scripture as God’s word. Because there’s no specific mention of an afterlife in the Torah, the Sadducees didn’t believe in it, and were determined to discredit anyone whose teaching centered on it. And so they confronted Jesus with this ridiculous scenario in an attempt to ridicule the idea of a next life.

But Jesus does what no rabbi had ever done. Jesus shows them how the Torah supports the idea of an afterlife. The patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are among the most prominent figures in the Torah. In Exodus, the second book of the Torah, God proclaimed himself “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” If these men are just dead, Jesus explains, then God is reigning over a kingdom of death, not a kingdom of life!  God doesn’t reign over those who no longer exist. God reigns over the living. God reigns over Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all who went before, and all who will come after.
Jesus and the Sadducees

And so what can we learn from these pragmatists, from these Sadducees who believed that this life is all there is? I suppose the first thing that becomes clear is that if someone believes only in death, then they will see only death, and they will see it everywhere.

We have a loving God, a God of the living, not a God who creates us and then disposes of us as if we were simply rubbish. No, we have a God who promises us eternal life through the power of Christ’s Resurrection. It’s through Jesus, the creative Word of God that you and I are brought into being, that we are given the gift of life.

Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life”, calls us to believe in life. Reject the way of the world, He tells us, the way of today’s Sadducees and pragmatists. Reject the way of death.

Jesus, when responding to those trying to entrap Him, just tells them they’re wrong and settles the question. He doesn’t offer some clever compromise, because truth can’t compromise with a lie, and life can’t compromise with death.

In the same way, the Church that Jesus founded, the Church guided today by His Holy Spirit, will not compromise with the lie of death. That’s why the Church consistently teaches the truth of life, and condemns all those symptoms of the culture of death that plague our world.

Brothers and sisters, we must not be like the Sadducees. We must not receive God’s Word and His Church’s teaching by tortuously reworking Scripture to fit our own viewpoint. We should make our prayer a desire to embrace fully, with our entire being, the fullness of the Revelation as it is given in the teaching Tradition of the Church. 

Then we can enter into the fire of God’s love and life, and like the angels, be immersed in the presence and life of God along with all creation. Let our prayer place us there.

Thy Kingdom come! Thy Kingdom is!

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