Death is seemingly final and all living things die…including us. How can we be resurrected from the dead and get our bodies back? Millions of people throughout human history have died and their bodies are dust. It seems impossible.
Yet somehow immortality seems right, doesn’t it? It’s death that doesn’t make sense. How can I just cease to be? How can I be so conscious of myself, so aware, so full of life only to exist for a little while and then be nothing?
There’s something innate in us that feels like we’re made for more, that we should continue forever. It feels like something is wrong with bodies prone to illness and subject to weakness, suffering, and death.
In this week’s gospel, Jesus confronts Sadducees who pose a theological conundrum about resurrection from the dead. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection even though it was a tenet of Jewish faith. Sadducees were a religious and political interest group that emerged around the 2nd century B.C. They were upper class. Wealthy, politically connected, and powerful. Sadducees were closely associated with the priesthood and the Temple. Not all Sadducees were Levitical priests, but most priests were aligned with the Sadducee way of thinking.
The Sadducees were religious conservatives who thought only the Pentateuch, first five books of the Bible, were true. For this reason, they denied religious doctrines not expressly taught there. Most notably, they didn’t believe in an afterlife, angels, the existence of an immortal soul, or the resurrection of the body, which put them in conflict with a majority of first-century Jews, particularly the Pharisees and Jesus.
This is the only real direct confrontation Jesus has with the Sadducees. The puzzle they throw at him is the logical outworking of an Old Testament law from Deuteronomy 25:5-6 that says if brothers live together and one of them dies without having a son, the other must marry the widow of his brother to have sons for him. The Sadducee argument is, if there’s a resurrection from the dead, this situation would be too ridiculous for God to allow if seven brothers all married the same woman.
Unfortunately for them, Jesus dismantles their argument using the very doctrines they deny. First, he unloads the bombshell that there’s no marriage in heaven. There’s no need since everyone has immortal souls and lives forever in heaven…like the angels, who they also deny, but are real. The finale comes when Jesus pulls out a reference to resurrection from the first five books of the Bible, not from later books written by prophets they wouldn’t accept. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, patriarchs from the Pentateuch, are not dead. They are alive in God and thus subject to the resurrection.
The Sadducees make two big mistakes. They lack a complete knowledge of divine revelation and therefore underestimate the power of God. The Sadducee’s argument is reasonable, but only on a human level. God transcends that reality. Many of us make the same mistakes today. I’ve seen friends dismayed at hearing there’s no marriage in heaven. It seems so foreign to our experience. How can the next life be heaven if I’m not intimately joined to this person who shares every aspect of this life?
Like the resurrection from the dead, it seems so foreign to our experience. Yet, that’s what God says will happen. The Fathers of the Church believed that even if it meant reconstituting every molecule in the universe to get your own decomposed body back, God would and could do it. I’ve stopped trying to apply human reason to questions like this. Obviously, heaven is something so amazing it completely transcends all my understanding of life and marriage. I’m sure whatever that is, it will be infinitely better.
However, I see this attitude creep into my faith life in other ways, as well. I underestimate what God can do in my life. I look at things from a worldly perspective. I confine God’s power to the constraints of human reason and understanding. But the saints didn’t do that. They saw possibilities far beyond what was humanly possible. They prayed for miracles…and they got them!
Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead. He was not just a resuscitated corpse but a new creation. His body was spiritualized, divinized. He conquered death and made it possible for us to share in his victory. In Baptism we receive the life of the risen Christ–we are “sons of the resurrection.” So, at the end of time we will get our bodies back infused with glory and immortality. There will be no more suffering, no more pain, no more tears.
That innate feeling that something is wrong with the world, that you are not meant for death but to continue forever is right. You are meant for more. You are meant for immortality, but you can only have that by joining yourself to Jesus. Will you?
Marc Cardaronella is director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute.
Daily Scripture Readings
For complete daily Scripture texts, click here. http://www.usccb.org
Monday, November 7
Psalms 24:1b-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
Tuesday, November 8
Titus 2:1-8, 11-14
Psalms 37:3-4, 18 & 23, 27 & 29
Wednesday, November 9
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12
Psalms 46:2-3, 5-6, 8-9
1 Corinthians 3:9c-11, 16-17
Thursday, November 10
Psalms 146:7, 8-9a, 9bc-10
Friday, November 11
2 John 4-9
Psalms 119:1, 2, 10, 11, 17, 18
Saturday, November 12
3 John 5-8
Psalms 112:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 13
Psalms 98:5-6, 7-8, 9
2 Thessalonians 3:7-12
Monday, November 14
Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5
Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4 & 6
Tuesday, November 15
Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22
Psalms 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5
Wednesday, November 16
Psalms 150:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6
Thursday, November 17
Psalms 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a & 9b
Friday, November 18
Psalms 119:14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131
Saturday, November 19
Psalms 144:1, 2, 9-10
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 20
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
The full text of the Scripture readings for this week and next week can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/
Click on the “Daily Readings” tab on the right hand side of the page.