Life & Soul

When the Sadducees quizzed Jesus, he pointed them to Israel’s traditions

Maccabees (1830-1842), by Polish Romantic painter Wojciech Stattler (1800-1875)

The 32nd Sunday of the Year
2 Macc 7:1-2 & 9-14; 2 Thess 2:16 – 3:5;   Lk 20:27-38 (Year C) 

November is a time for remembrance. We remember those who have gone before us and in so doing are reminded that we will most certainly follow them. 

Week by week we confess our faith in the resurrection from the dead. Today’s first reading, from the Second Book of Maccabees, relates the nature of that resurrection. The passage is set against the brutal Seleucid persecution of the Jewish faith in 167 BC. It records the defiant faith of the three Maccabean brothers as they faced martyrdom: “It was heaven that gave me these limbs; for the sake of God’s laws I disdain them; from him I hope to receive them again”. 

Preferring death rather than an enforced rejection of the Jewish law, the brothers expressed a clear faith in a bodily resurrection. For them, the promised resurrection was something more than a vague and ill-defined survival beyond the grave.  

They clearly believed that they would be raised up in the fulness of their humanity, body and soul. 

The Gospel passage records an encounter of Jesus with the Sadducees, those who refused to believe in a bodily resurrection. Seeking to mock any belief in a bodily resurrection, these opponents invoked the unlikely hypothesis of a woman who had married and remarried seven times following the death of each partner. “Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she has been married to all seven?” 

Jesus refused to enter into the details of this frivolous scenario. Instead he appealed to the fundamental truth of Israel’s ancient faith. Moses had invoked Israel’s God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Though long dead, these founding fathers were alive in God. “Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.” 

Underlying the authority of this response was the all-embracing truth of Christ’s incarnation. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. To all who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God.” 

By his birth, Jesus embraced the fulness of humanity. He lived, died and rose in that same humanity. It is in the fullness of our redeemed humanity that we shall be called to resurrection. We know what it is to be human: to see, to touch and to embrace. Such is the humanity called to resurrection.