32nd Sun [C] 2007

Fr. Charles Irvin

2 Maccabees 7:1-2,9-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38

The Sadducees’ chief concern was about money, power, and control, not about religion as such. Politics and profit were their big concern. Life after death didn’t matter much at all to them because they really didn’t believe in the immortality of the soul, the soul’s resurrection into everlasting life.

There are lots of Sadducees around today. They are the power brokers in our culture, along with the pushers of pills, pot and pleasure. They set the standards of what’s “cool” and what’s not on MTV, in the magazines, and in the elite media. They want to be in control by setting the pace, the standard, the norm of what’s “in” and what’s not. I suspect they don’t have what it takes to make themselves important among their own peers so they treat us all as if we were pawns in the great game of life. They have other motives, too – the profit motive.

Jesus threatens the power of the Sadducees, both the 2,000-year-old variety as well as today’s. Had He left them alone they would have gladly left Him alone. But Jesus kept doing and saying things that threatened their power and influence, doing things that cut into their cash flow. With all of this whipping of their moneychangers and throwing around their tables in the Temple they considered Jesus to be a dangerous fanatic who had to be dealt with. Even today the Sadducees of our time consider people of faith to be “fanatics.” So they set out to make Him look like a fool and marginalize Him. Later on they would plot to kill Him.

We find them in today’s Gospel account confronting Jesus with a ridiculous story of an unfortunate woman who had married and then lost seven husbands. They were not concerned with the real issue, namely belief in life after death and the consequences of our daily decisions in determining how we will live in that life after death. No. Instead they started with the question about to whom the woman would belong, much like a piece of property, in the next life. They were, no doubt, laughing before they finished with their crazy question. What a fool they thought Jesus would look like in trying to answer their clever little question!

Jesus wasn’t laughing. He even overlooked their stupid question and, instead, asked them in turn a question about their national heroes, namely Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses. Did they think that God created these giants only to blot them out into nothingness upon their death? Do you really think that all of those beautiful people in your lives whom you know, who are strong, loving and wise, who are compassionate and kind, and who care so passionately for life and love simply go poof when they die… simply disappear into clouds of nothingness?

There are a lot of silly questions that the worldly put to us. There are a lot of questions that divert our attention and cause us to lose sight of the most fundamental and important questions of all, namely “Why do you exist? Why were you brought into being? What is the meaning of your life?”

It is absurd to think that all of the love, all of the beauty, all of the compassion, care, concern, goodness, and hunger for justice and decency that you find in yourself, and admire so much in others, will simply be blown away at death. And it is really absurd to hold to the position that all of the goodness, love, and pursuit of justice that we have in our hearts add souls, and have shared with others, is good only for the few short years we live here on earth and will then disappear into nothingness at death. That truly is absurd!

What is just as absurd is the Sadducees’ question about who has ownership and control of the woman in the next life. Do you hear what their real question is? It’s asking Jesus which of those brothers owns the woman. To which male does the female belong?

When we deceive ourselves about Jesus and what He stands for, we deceive our selves. When we play games with God, we play games with our selves. Furthermore we play games with those around us. Ultimately we play games with the life we shall be living after we die.

There is no such thing as a small decision in life. All decisions have consequences. Our life after death, who we are, and what sort of character we shall take with us into the next life is shaped and formed by the questions we answer now in the way we live our lives right now, tomorrow, throughout the coming week, and throughout the remaining days of our lives. There’s really no such thing as an inconsequential sin. Nor is there an act of love that’s of little or no consequence. Wasn’t that one of the main points of Jesus’ teaching?

What, then, are your questions, the questions you want to put to God? Are they silly and ridiculous? You hear people around you making God’s Church appear to be silly, stupid, and of little or no consequence. The Sadducees are alive and well and quite active among us today, right here in our community. Asking the right question should be of supreme importance.

For I believe that the reason why you were born, the reason why you are living here among us today, and the reason why you will die, is to love God face to face. And I also believe that the face of God is found in those around us who are hungry for love, for goodness, and decency. I believe the face of God is seen in those who are imprisoned in addictions and compulsive behavior patterns, in those who are lonely and have no one to love them, in those who are sick with self hate and self loathing. And I believe, too — passionately believe — that God has fallen in love with ordinary humanity. He has fallen in love with you and with me, not just saints. And I believe that we celebrate here at this altar the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, so that God’s Body and Blood can mingle with and become yours and mine. And I firmly believe that we only have a glimpse here on earth of what love and marriage will really be in the everlasting life that awaits us.

To my way of thinking, it is silly to think otherwise and to believe that it all disappears into nothingness when we die. The Sadducees had nothing of substance to offer at the time of Christ. And the Sadducees of today likewise have nothing to offer us. But God, being a God of the living and not of the dead, has everything to offer you and me.

May we now, and all of the days of our lives, respond fully to His loving offer to marry Himself to us here on our altar. “This is my body,” He declares, “take it.” “This is my blood,” He tells us, “drink it. I am marrying you. Let us belong to each other forever and ever.”

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”