In the 2nd reading for this 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Paul says to the Thessalonians: Pray that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified.” Sounds like a line from Star Wars or the Narnia Chronicles. “Speed the Word of God forward.” Paul continues – “I am confident that you are doing and will continue to do as the Lord directs your hearts to the love of God and the endurance of Christ.” The “endurance of Christ.” A reminder that, yes, we are the hands and heart of Christ in our world.
Relating to the Gospel seems a bit more tricky. The Sadducees are once again challenging Jesus… describing a most unlikely situation and quoting Moses as their authority. One woman being wed, in turn to seven brothers. Often Jesus answers a question with a question. He responds differently this time. But this time he uses the occasion for instruction. Actually, Jesus makes four points.
First: life here on earth and life after death are not alike. The kingdom of heaven is not simply an extension of the good things in this life. Even though some give the impression “if ice cream will make you happy, yes, you’ll have it in heaven.” Jesus makes it clear that eternity is more than just an extension of what we have here.
Second: Jesus explains that there is no marriage in “that age.” He doesn’t say that a married couple won’t know each other in the age to come, but, Jesus let us know rather that the relationship will be different.
The fourth thing Jesus points out, is that the redeemed will be “like” the angels in heaven – not that they will be angels, but “like” the angels they will be forever praising and serving God.
And, if we drill deeper into the Jesus story, we’ll discover that the Sadducees were impressed with Jesus. Like the twelve-year-old in the temple who amazed the people with his knowledge. The Sadducees congratulated Jesus on his logic and his use of Scripture. Jesus proved, from Scripture, that there are some references to life after death.
As we wrestle with questions about resurrection and after life, especially in this month when we honor our deceased Sisters and our loved ones. And, at times like this week’s Veterans’ Day celebrations, we confirm our belief in Jesus’ promise of life beyond this one. The trivia of this life loses much of its importance, while the values, the important things take on added meaning. Living with the assurance of heaven, we live differently, we live for God. The promise of eternal life is not just some pie in the sky hope for us. In eternity, in the everlasting life, we’ll be ourselves at our ultimate best and will be more loveable and more capable of loving than ever before. [And it would serve us well, also, to think about the one who just jostled our nerves: she’ll/he’ll be more loveable in the life to come.]
[I’ve a story to share but could not figure out how to slip it into the body or the reflection….]
A newly-assigned young pastor had just received his first visitor. The parish council president came by to visit him on a Sunday afternoon. The man was a highly respected member of this congregation for over 25 years and president of the Parish council.
It was a balmy – not too humid kind of day – unusual for a day in August. Taking advantage of the nice day, they were sitting on the back porch of the rectory. The man seemed uneasy but slowly started to speak, “Father, first off I want to tell you this is a personal matter – nothing to do with Parish council business. I want to share this with you, and seek your advice. I’ve never told this to a soul, it’s extremely difficult to tell you this now. Well, here goes: “My wife and I have had a fight almost every day for the past 30 years of our marriage.”
The young priest was taken aback. He nervously took a sip of his sweetened Southern iced tea. He didn’t know what to say. He had never personally experienced that kind of thing growing up. Of course he’d taken counseling courses in the seminary. He wanted to respond with compassion. This was real life, not a set-up scenario from seminary days.
After a brief pause, he asked: “Everyday?” “Yes, just about every day.” “Did you fight before you came to church this morning?” “Yes.” “Well, how did it end up?” “It was different this time. She came crawling to me on her hands and knees.”
Trying to hide this shock, and keep his voice calm, Father ask: “Oh, my goodness what did she say?” “She pounded the floor with her hand and said in a voice that I’ve never heard before. It was low and commanding as she growled: “Come out from under that bed, you coward, and fight like a man!”
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB, Prioress