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  • Writer's pictureRev. Fr. Anuraj R.L.

Seed destined to blossom in God's garden

At first glance, the gospel for this Sunday seems very insignificant. The Gospel passages we heard until last week were the events that took place on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem for the Passover. Last week we meditated on the episode of Zacchaeus, which took place in Jericho, near Jerusalem. After this, the Gospels record His royal entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and then the famous purification of the Temple. These events undoubtedly caused consternation among the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees. Therefore, they tried to entrap Jesus by asking questions, such as whence Jesus’ authority came from, whether taxes were to be paid to Caesar etc. One among the questions was the question of the Sadducees in the gospel for today.

The Sadducees were an aristocratic group involved in the most important religious and political affairs of Jesus’ time and consisted of a priestly group that served in the Jerusalem Temple. But they did not believe in the resurrection because they did not accept any other books in the sacred scriptures except the first five books, which are said to have been given by Moses, known as the Pentateuch. They did not believe in resurrection for the single reason that there was no mention of resurrection in the Pentateuch. So, the first lesson we get from here is that we need to be open to the fullness of truth God reveals and never limit the Lord by our own understanding of reality. Even today, there is a tendency to seek God by avoiding some of the books in the Bible, including the books of Maccabees, from which the first reading is taken for today. Matthew the Evangelist reports that Jesus warns them severely: “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.” (Mat 22:29)

Secondly, the fact that the Sadducees were priests should frighten us because if everything ends with death, what priestly duties were they performing? What meaning did they give to God, good deeds and sufferings? Interestingly the Sadducees ceased to exist after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. They were the people who had the opportunities to live in the holy City, participate in the temple services and study the Word. But their pride and self-righteousness kept them from receiving the Word of God. History confirms the fact that what they believed happened to them.

Dear ones, this is a warning to each of us. Because in baptism, we die with Christ, rise again, and become a new creation. Every baptized man becomes part of the holy people and the royal priesthood. That means we are children of the resurrection. So we are called to live in the glory of the resurrection. Every Sunday during Holy Mass, when we proclaim our faith, do we say with much consciousness that we believe in the resurrection of the body?

Resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith and Christian hope. That is why St paul said: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. “if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor 15:13-14)

If there were no reference to Paradise and eternal life, Christianity would be reduced to ethics, to a philosophy of life. Instead, the message of the Christian faith comes from Heaven. It is revealed by God and goes beyond this world. Belief in the resurrection is essential so that our every act of Christian love not to be ephemeral and an end in itself but may become a seed destined to blossom in the garden of God and produce the fruit of eternal life.

On the other hand, when we live to indulge the cravings of our desires, our life is degraded into one without faith in the resurrection. Mother Teresa chose to love the children of the street because she lived a life of the resurrection. The seven brothers died instead to act against God’s command because they had hope in the resurrection. So let us also pray for the virtue of hope so that we may be able to face the sufferings of this world. For, the life of resurrection is beyond the logic of this world. It is not merely a continuation of earthly life.

Then naturally, arises a doubt. If marriage is good, holy and a sacrament, why does Jesus say there will be no marriage in the resurrection? Does it mean that no one will know their spouse in the resurrection?

Here it is important to understand that not all sacraments are permanent. Some of them are part of this life and will pass away—for example, sacraments, confession, anointing the sick etc. And marriage is one of those sacraments. It’s an earthly sign that gives grace, but it points forward to the eternal marriage of Christ and the Church— Christ the Bridegroom and the Church as His bride. And once we arrive at that eternal reality, the earthly sign will pass away. But that doesn’t mean that a man and a woman won’t know one other. It is just that the marriage relationship does not exist there. Because in Heaven, we share in the company of saints. It teaches us that our union with God will not only be perfected in Heaven but our union with one another will also be perfected. We will have a perfect union with all of the saints, a perfect communion with all of the saints in Christ. It doesn’t mean that our relationship with and our communion with our spouses will not be less perfect in the resurrection; it will be more perfect, because we will be perfectly united to Christ and perfectly united to one another. But the sacramental bond of marriage will, in fact, pass away. There will be no more procreation, for there is no need for it. There can only be a new creation. That is why the Church has such an esteem for consecrated virginity and for celibacy because it is the life of the age to come, the life of the resurrection, living and testifying already here on earth.

Thirdly, the question that is put to trap Jesus. According to the Law of Moses, if a man died childlessly, his brother had to take his widow as his wife. If all seven brothers died childlessly, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? Jesus answers them by quoting the verse from the Pentateuch that they believe and giving an interpretation they have never heard before. In the book of Exodus, God appeared in the burning bush and told Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. Moses, who lived six centuries after the patriarchs, still writes in the present tense, which means that the patriarchs are alive to God. Therefore, Christ teaches us that even a single verb in the Bible should be read with much attention. Moreover, Christ is the incarnate Word. So we must turn to Him to understand the Word of God. Today Jesus, with the help of the Holy Spirit, teaches us through the Church, the mystical body of Christ Jesus. May each of us be able to absorb the Word of God.

Dear friends, the seven brothers who married a Sadducee woman but died childlessly are a symbol. This is to remind us that not a single day of our life in this world, which revolves around seven days, should end without a good deed, like the seven brothers, and that we, too, must not succumb to death in the end, like the barren woman.

Then we who have been baptized pray for the grace to bear fruit and live as children of the resurrection.

May God bless you!

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