The Trap of the Sadducees
Gospel for Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Glen Argan
I dislike this Gospel of the sneering Sadducees with their conjured-up yarn of the woman widowed seven times over (Luke 20.27-38). These wealthy dudes feign sympathy for the poor widow who ends up in “heaven” married to the seven brothers. Some paradise!
We think of the Sadducees as another party among the Jews. And they were. In those days, if you belonged to the culture, you belonged to the religion and vice versa.
Today’s equivalent of the Sadducees might be atheist academics who sneer at the faith of the unenlightened. Religion and culture are no longer tightly bound.
Jesus, of course, is presented as more quick-witted than even the smartest skeptics of his day. The story, however, is not about Jesus being super-smart. It is about the resurrection and how resurrected life is quite different than life before death.
God is the God of the living, and even Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live. In eternal life, there is no more getting married. Those risen in Christ are children of God, children of the resurrection. They are like angels.
Don’t fall into the trap of the Sadducees: Don’t imagine that life with God in eternity will be anything like life on this earth.
St. Paul writes that one’s body in this world is like a seed that must die; it is not like the body that is to be. “God gives a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. . . . What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15.36-42).
The Sadducees think they have it all figured out, but they don’t have a clue. Neither do we, for that matter. All we know for certain is that what we will be is not like what we are now. Will we need hands and feet, eyes and ears? We don’t know. Will we be able to cozy up with our spouse or our favourite dog? We don’t know.
Elsewhere, Paul provides a guide for living in this world so that we will be ready for the next. “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3.1-3).
Foolish Sadducees! In their puffed-up arrogance, they failed to realize that truth goes beyond human understanding. Stuff your materialistic atheism, you Sadducees. Seek the things that are above.
[Other readings: Haggai 1.15—2.9; Psalm 145.15, 17-21; 2 Thessalonians 2.1-5; 13-17]