November 6, 2022
Not all Catholics believe that we will rise from the dead. I know that from many conversations over 55 years as a priest. For many people, what they are here, is what is, and thereafter, there is nothing.
That there is life after this life is an ancient intuition at the heart of all cultures – the ancestors, the spirits of the ancestors – that there is a somewhere else.
The intuition is more than a Jewish or a Christian intuition, and it is certainly part of who we are as disciples of Jesus. That he died and rose from the dead is the very spiritual heart of who we are as disciples of Jesus.
Today, Jesus speaks about “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead.”
Today’s Sadducees, who believed in the here and now and getting the most out of this life, now argue with Jesus: well, if you marry more than once, who is going to be your wife in heaven or in whatever the after-life is?
Just last week, a friend of mine emailed me. He married his wonderful second wife after his first wife died, and she wants to claim him in heaven and to whom is he going to be married? Jesus answers that question today.
So, Jesus says that what marriage may be like on earth is not what it is going to be like in heaven. It will be way beyond a sexual relationship or a couple kind of closeness. We are going to experience a love and inclusivity that is more than we can imagine. There, we will experience a new kind of love that is more than a human marriage bond, sexual activity, or exclusive relationship.
Actually, that is hard to imagine what that will be like, but God has evidently a wonderful surprise waiting for all of us. “We will not marry or be given in marriage in heaven. And, we will just have to wait to experience what that is all about. “Until death do us part,” the vows said, and then what? Perhaps a new individual freedom will come to us. Perhaps a couple on earth will be friends, forever, in an entirely new way. A marriage there will not be exactly like it is here.
We do not know how to imagine that and all who try to imagine it, will not help. We are just going to have to wait to discover the new life, the new way of being – in heaven.
Getting back to the question if there will be a Resurrection, we hear a story of the Maccabee brothers and their resistance movement of the threatening Greek culture creeping into Jewish life. No matter how cruelly they died, they believed 2,300 years ago that “The King of the World will raise them up to live again forever.” Again, they believed in a bodily resurrection. As their hands were being chopped off, the Maccabee brothers believed that those hands that they had received in birth, they would receive them again in an after-life.
All our questions about heaven and an after-life will have to wait until we experience all of it first-hand. That there is something else after this life is our hope and desire.
This letter of St. Paul today is one of his first letters and he wrote it to share his own thoughts and beliefs about an after-life, about a Resurrection, no back to earth but to a new place – unknown to us, more than Sheve/Hades, the underworld of the pagan religions of his day.
The last 4 lines instruct us to keep doing what we were taught to do and direct our lords to the love of God and to walk through life as Jesus did. St. Paul called it, “the endurance of Christ.” How Jesus got through will be the same for us. We do not worry about the future, and we trust Jesus to provide the future for us.
“Gotcha!” the Sadducees exclaimed. “Fooled you, Jesus!”
The Sadducees were not interested in a real discussion or the truth.
They thought more materialistically. Do well in the present life, because there isn’t any after.
So, they present a silly example to Jesus of a wife who marries 7 times and whose wife shall she be.
Not so silly, because a good friend of mine just last week emailed me. I knew his first wife and buried her. Now very happy in a second marriage, his new wife wanted to know to whom he will be married to in heaven? She wants him for herself.
Both? But what will be missing or transformed or changed will be the possessiveness, the “for me only” recognition.
In Heaven, our relationship will not be about sexuality but about “compatibility,” not about exclusivity, but about openness and true friendship.
There will be no marriage in heaven, not in the sense of love and sex and exclusiveness.
That may be difficult for us to imagine, but we are going to be in a new kind of life that somehow brings everything together, to appreciate each other not as an exclusive possession but as super-friendly– no possessiveness – a new extraordinary way of living, friends, partners, and love beyond sexual exclusivity.
So maybe the woman with 7 husbands will love them and will recognize how each played a part in her life, and maybe, they will rejoice that they had an opportunity to live together for a short time in this world. And may they all will have received a different kind of love towards each other, beyond sexuality, with a fullness even greater than before.
It seems that there will be more than marriage in heaven to which Jesus alludes today.
There will be no marriage in heaven, Jesus says. Some of you may look forward to that. It was enough on earth! But others may have this dreamy-eyed hope that marriage will be a lot better in heaven.
Anyway, no one, no one, no one knows what it is going to be like.
Today, the only thing that Jesus says is that “the children of God will rise,” that God is the God of the living – “for to God,” Jesus says, “all are alive.”
So, let’s not get all bothered by silly Sadducees.
St. Paul reminds us that God has loved us, has given us everlasting encouragement and good hope and he encourages us to strengthen our lives with every good deed and word.
We don’t worry about the future. The future depends upon our present. So, St. Paul reminds us to direct our hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ.
In the end, Jesus tells the Sadducees, that we “can no longer die, for we shall be like the angels. We are the children of God and we are the ones who will rise.”
Gotcha – Jesus says to the Sadducees!