Jesus Speaks Near The Treasury
1886 - 1896
James Tissot 1836-1902
A well-known French impressionist painter who visited the Holy Land in 1880s and during the latter part of his career produced a series of 700 watercolour drawings to illustrate the Life of Christ and the Old Testament.
Luke: 20: 27-38
27“Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’ 34 Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’.
38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive’”.
Last week we looked at the amazing conversion of Zacchaeus who wanted to see the Lord and ended up welcoming him into his house. He was so deeply touched by this encounter that he changed his life completely.
In today’s Lectio Divina the passage of the Gospel of Saint Luke introduces us into the world of the Sadducees. They put a question to Jesus. Paraphrasing their thoughts, we can say that the question was something like: “What will happen to us after we die?”
Life-after-death was an important issue for them. However, the Sadducees denied resurrection and any kind of life after death. They believed that there is no heaven; nothing beyond what people could see with their naked eyes!
Nonetheless, they put to Jesus the question: “At the resurrection, whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”.
The Test of the Sadducees
The answer Jesus provides gives us a masterly insight of what He thought about the last things (eschatology). In practical terms, Jesus was asked what He actually thought about the situation of a woman who had lost seven husbands; to whom will she get married. However, Jesus responds to that question cleverly and in a clear way: This ridiculous trap set by the Sadducees about finding out whose wife will the woman be, gives Jesus an opportunity to deliver a well thought reply.
It is worth noting that the Sadducees were the party of the ruling and wealthiest social class in Israel. They were well known, among other things, for their denial of life after death. Then, why should they pose a question about it if not to seek and ridicule Jesus?
The opposite party, the Pharisees, on the one hand, were much more consistent. They firmly believed in the God who sealed a Covenant with his people in the Old Testament. They had a rather prosaic understanding of the life to come and thought that life after death would be just as life on earth.
On the other hand, the Sadducees, who only believed in this present life, argued against the Pharisees. According to the Sadducees, eschatology was limited to the survival of God's people in this world; in short, life was limited to a world without end, but a world without consummation, a world where suffering, death and unhappiness would never be overcome.
Traditions and the Love of the Father
Being more personal and committed than the Pharisees, Jesus confronts the materialistic Sadducees. What Jesus has to say, He does emphatically. He resorts to the traditions of his people, to their Forefathers: “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.
It is precisely the image of God as Father, who is all goodness and mercy, which led Jesus to teach that our life does not end with death. A God who would simply let us die, or who would leave us in the dissatisfaction of this life and its evils, would not be a true God. The Parables of mercy and the love of God the Father are beautiful testimonies of the teachings of Jesus about life after death.
God is a God of the Living, not of the dead.
The question of the afterlife, in Jesus' teachings, has a lot to do with our image of God and with who we are. The argument Jesus offers is both intelligent and respectful.
It would not make sense to put our faith in a God who does not give life forever. The God who revealed himself in the burning bush at Sinai to Moses is a once-and-for-all God because God is a Liberator; God delivered the people from slavery and God frees us from the slavery that death procures. Hence, Jesus proclaims forcefully that God is “God of the living, not of the dead”. In God "all are alive". We have been created for life and not for death.
The Resurrection is a Gift from God
We are invited to believe that the Resurrection is a gift from God. We believe that the Resurrection occurs not after an eternity of countless years, but at the very moment of our death.
And we must open our minds, as Jesus teaches us in this Gospel, to understand that life after death will be different from this one, by which we are so seduced.
We must be prepared to open our minds to learn how we too relate to our loved ones who are no longer with us. We embrace Christianity, a faith consistent with the belief on eternal life. And for this, of course, there is no scientific explanation. We need to rely on our faith, precisely, a faith which the Sadducees lacked.
Imbued by a dehumanising mentality, many in our contemporary society find in this a great challenge. However, if we deny the Resurrection, we deny God, the God of Jesus who is the God of the living and who gives true life after a true death.
The reassuring belief based on the Resurrection of Jesus, gives us the joy that one day we will be together with our dear ones in the presence of the Trinity, to celebrate LIFE for ever.
In this belief, we find the joy and the strength to face and overcome the challenges and the pains of the present world.
Jesus used arguments his opponents could understand. He talked in their own language and confronted them on their own grounds.
The Church, and we with her, must rise to the challenge of finding a language, as we -lay people and ministers- try to interpret the living Word and pass it on to our listeners. Pope Francis is leading the way, both with his words and with his actions.
Prayer of Origen, 185-254 AD
“May the Lord Jesus put his hands on our eyes also, for then we too shall begin to look not at what is seen but at what is not seen. May He open the eyes that are concerned not just with the present but with what is yet to come, may He unseal the heart's vision, that we may gaze on God in the Spirit, through the same Lord, Jesus Christ, whose glory and power will endure throughout the unending succession of ages. Amen”.
“Hear a just cause, O Lord, attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from my lips. I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God! Incline your ear to me, hear my words. Wondrously show your mercies, O saviour of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me. As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; When I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding your form”.
What do we think about when we hear Christ’s promise of eternal life?
- Does it seem possible?
- Do we imagine what it might be like?
Is it possible for us to believe in his promise always?
- Do we struggle to believe at times?
- Do we have a favourite prayer or reading which helps strengthen our belief?
Do we find it easy or even possible to explain to others our belief in Christ?
- Do we find it awkward to raise the subject of our faith with those who do not share it?
- Have we found ways to make the discussion easier?
Do we want to discuss the mystery of our faith with others?
- Is it easier to avoid the subject?
- Should we look for help to allow us to express our beliefs better?
Do we look on at others who seem to have more confidence in faith than we do?
- Might it help to talk to them?
- Are we prepared to share with others our fears and our triumphs in trying to live as God asks?
 Luke 19: 1-10  Luke 20: 27-38  Luke 20: 27-38  Luke: 7: 37-50: A public Woman washes the feet of Jesus. 10: 25-37: The good Samaritan. 15: 11-32: The prodigal son.  Luke 20: 38: “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living for him we are alive”. Luke 20: 37: “But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. Luke 20: 36: “And they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection”. 1Cor 15: 12-18: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost”.