Life After Life, by Bishop Francesco Follo – ZENIT – English

XXXII Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – November 6, 2022

Roman Rite 2Mac 7.1-2.9-14; Ps 16; 2 Ts 2.16-3.5; Luke 20.27-38

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King of the Universe

  1. The God of the living

This Sunday’s Gospel passage speaks of life beyond death, telling us a surprising question that the Sadducees pose to Jesus; his answer is even more surprising.

Some Sadducees approach the Messiah in the Temple because they want to make Christ say something that allows them, if not to condemn him, but at least to embarrass him. They ask Him, “If there is resurrection, what happens then?” “. They present to Him a hypothetical and implausible case where seven brothers marry one after the death of the other, the same woman to follow the law of levirate which prescribed to the brother-in-law to take as his wife the wife of the deceased brother without children.

In this unlikely case, the Sadducees were trying to demonstrate that the idea of ​​the resurrection was absurd and foreign to Scripture. By presenting the paradoxical hypothesis of the woman married seven times, it was like saying that the existence of the resurrection led to inadmissible complications. So they were certain to ridicule any answer of Jesus, if he had affirmed the existence of the resurrection which was for them a ridiculous idea and foreign to Scripture: it was a kind of popular superstition.

Jesus answers the question of the Sadducees: “The children of this world take wife and husband. But those who have been judged worthy to have part in the world to come and in the resurrection from the dead take neither wife nor husband, for they can no longer die: they are like the angels, they are children of God and children of the resurrection. That the dead are raised, Moses himself makes this clear in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. All, indeed, live for him” (lc 20, 34-38).

To fully understand Jesus’ response, we must remember that in the Old Testament the certainty of a future life that goes beyond the threshold of death and ensures a happy and luminous destiny for man, had not yet reaches the maturity and strength that will have in the New Testament. In the Gospel, this becomes clear thanks to the revelation of Christ, confirmed by his own resurrection, three days after his death on the Cross.

Jesus speaks of a life beyond death, a life in which the righteous is in full communion with God, the God of the living that Moses had already spoken of (cf. Ex. 3.6). This verse from Exodus, which is part of the Pentateuch and was recognized by the Sadducees as an inspired book, does not speak directly of the resurrection of the Lord as God of the living. In doing so, Jesus leads the discussion to the root, that is to say to the conception of the living God and his faithfulness: if God loves man, he cannot abandon him to the power of death.

The power of man over man is a domination that often gives death to the living, that of God is service, which always gives life to the dead. Jesus teaches that the resurrected are sons of God who participate fully in the divine life. We can’t imagine how this life will be, but it will be a full life, in the joy of love. reciprocal. Our God is not a God of the dead, but of the living. He is at the service of life, He is life. Death is not the last word on everything and everyone, and God is a Father who loves and gives his children life forever. He does not kill his children. He loves them so much that, to give them life, he sent his Son Jesus, who gave his life for them.

2) A life and a love to be shared for eternity.

The Sadducees, unfortunately, are not the only ones who do not believe in the resurrection. Yesterday as today, many people, Christians and non-Christians, wonder what is the meaning of the resurrection. Like non-believers, we Christians often say, “The important thing is health.” The important thing is to prolong life in the most decent way possible. And instead of asking ourselves the question of a good life, we talk about a good death (indeed, “euthanasia” means a good death).

Obviously, in this perspective where death is a fact to be faced in the least painful way possible, it is very difficult to accept the revelation of the resurrection. On the other hand, the resurrection is a fundamental theme. The resurrection is the principle of the Christian life. It is so true that the Apostles said – when they had to choose someone instead of Judas Iscariot –: “Let’s take one who with us witnessed the resurrection”. And in the letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul writes “And if Christ is not risen, our proclamation is without content, your faith also is without content” (ch 15, 14). Without the resurrection, Christianity has no value. With the resurrection – the resurrection of the flesh – therefore, (the term “flesh designates man in his condition of weakness and mortality, cf. larp 6, 3 ; PS 56,5; Is 40.6), all Christianity is standing or else it is collapsing, beyond all sweets, all romanticism about kindness and love.

Christ’s words to the Sadducees are clear: “That the dead are raised, Moses himself makes this clear in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. All, indeed, live for him” (lc 20, 37-28) and therefore, these are not dead. If they belong to God: they are alive.

God is Life, he is the God who gives life, he is the God who loves life and the Son of God clearly tells us that life comes from God: “everyone lives for him”. First of all, it is not for fear of death that we believers in Christ “wait for eternal life”. We are waiting for it because we have learned from God that life comes from God and that He alone gives life. We understood that God will not be absent at the time of our death because he is at the origin of our birth and that of each new child.

He who wanted Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and each one of us, cannot have brought us into the world, in the light of the world, to send us into the darkness of death. He did not give birth to us in order to make us die. He is the God of the living, not of dead children.

3) Resurrection and virginity

In conclusion of these reflections on the encounter of the Sadducees with Christ, I would like to emphasize that the subject of Jesus’ debate with these Hebrews is the resurrection, but he also offers us a lesson on virginity.

The Messiah teaches that the resurrected take neither wife nor husband. This implies that the final state of humanity is the virginal state, in the sense that the exclusive relationship between man and woman, with its meanings of unity and fecundity, no longer has any reason to exist in a concluding phase of history. When “God will be all in all” (cf. 1 Horn 15:28), there will be one love and it will be Trinitarian love. When the exclusive relationship between man and woman has ceased, the Trinitarian love that the resurrected will experience will be a virginal love.

So we better understand the value of the life of consecrated virgins in the world: these women are a “sign” which indicates what everyday life in Heaven will be like. (cf ritual of consecration of the virgins n° 24)

These consecrated women testify that welcoming Christ as Lord in a full and exclusive way means giving concrete witness to the truth of the prologue of Saint John: “to all those who received him, (Jesus) gave the power to become children of God”. , “children of the resurrection” in the Son who conquered death. These women show in a special way that Christians are now partakers of divine nature and life, and they are here in this time and in this world “worthy of another world and of the resurrection of the dead.” They experience each relationship in a different, celestial way because “they are like angels”. In the Church which is the saved world, the virgins represent the testimony and the sign of the state of the final resurrection, where neither wife nor husband is taken, as the bride and groom are the sign of Christ, spouse of the Church. and priests are signs of the effective presence of Christ the Pastor.

Patristic Reading

2nd century homily

“In his mercy, God raises us up”

We must look at Jesus Christ as we look at God: as the judge of the living and the dead, and we must not have a low opinion of our salvation. For if we esteem Christ mediocre, it is because we also hope for mediocre realities. Those who place little value on what they have learned about it are in a state of sin; and we too sin if we do not know from what place, by whom and for what destination we have been called, if we do not know all that Christ has accepted to suffer for our sake.

What would we give him in return? What fruit is worthy of that which he has given us? What a debt we owe him! He blessed us with light, like a father he declared us his sons, he saved us when we were perishing. What high enough praise could we give him? How to pay him back for all his largesse? Our minds were so weak that we worshiped man-made stones, wood, gold, silver and bronze, and our whole life was nothing but death. We were therefore plunged into blindness, our sight was filled with darkness, and now we have regained our sight, we have pushed aside, by his good will, the cloud which enveloped us.

For he had pity on us, his tenderness was moved and he saved us, when he saw that we were in error, that we were going to our loss and that we had no hope of being saved outside of him. Because he called us when we didn’t exist and he wanted to make us go from nothingness to being!

Rejoice, barren, you who did not give birth, burst into cries of joy, you who did not know the pains, because more are the children of the forsaken one than the children of the one who has a husband. These words: Rejoice, barren, you who bore no child, are addressed to us; for it is our Church that was barren before children were given to her. These words: Shout for joy, you who have not known pain, signify the prayers that we must, with simplicity, raise to God so as not to succumb, like women who are in pain. These words: for more are the children of the forsaken than the children of her who has a husband, here is what they mean: our people seemed forsaken by the Lord; but now that we are believers, we outnumber those who seemed to possess God.

It says in another passage of Scripture: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. This means that the Lord seeks those who are lost, these are the ones who must be saved. It is indeed a great and admirable work to strengthen not the solid edifices, but those which are falling. This is how Christ wanted to save what was lost, and he was the salvation of many, he who came and called us when we were already lost.

We want to thank the author of this short article for this outstanding content

Life After Life, by Bishop Francesco Follo – ZENIT – English

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