Ordinary Time 32, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
Neither death ... nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38, 39—NAB)

Justifiably or unjustifiably, we are sometimes our own most insuperable obstacles. Moses, for instance, when informed of a God-given mission, objected that, besides being a nobody really, he lacked eloquence and was slow of speech and tongue (Ex. 3:10-12; 4:10-11). The Sadducees in today’s gospel reading, for their part, obstructed their own path toward belief in the resurrection, and in a coming age different from this present age, with their appeal to the law of levirate marriage (Dt. 25:5-6).

But God, of course, assured Moses. He promised to be with Moses and to help him speak and teach him what to say.

And Jesus, for his part, declared the Sadducees’ hindrance unwarranted, irrelevant, and therefore surmountable. He denied the truth of their basic premise or presupposition. In the afterlife, according to Jesus: people neither marry nor are they given in marriage; they can no longer die since they are like angels; and their resurrection means they are God’s children. In the afterlife, then, the continuity of the family line is no longer threatened by death and, hence, is not a matter of concern anymore. Those who attain to the coming age are God’s children and they belong solely to God’s family, having no need to start families of their own that will carry on their progeny lest their names be blotted out. Those taking part in the resurrection are so transformed that they can become part of the family of God, who himself is spirit (Jn. 4:24), and so are able to cross over into a realm that is spiritual [1], thus overcoming human predicament.

The resurrection, with its glorious transformation, also spells defiance of and triumph over the obstacles that we human beings have turned ourselves into—our uncertainties about what lies ahead, our fear of being accused and questioned, our dread of suffering, maltreatment, torture and death, even our most intense and almost indomitable desire and effort to cling to dear life. The seven brothers, of the first reading, and their mother embodied, no doubt, such defiance and such triumph.

The fullest embodiment of defiance and triumph, we believe however, is Jesus, God’s unequivocal manifestation of his love (cf. Mk. 15:34; Lk. 22:42; 23:46; Jn. 3:16; 15:13; Rom. 5:8). Hence, in accordance with a wish in the second reading, we ask the Lord to direct our hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ. Such a prayer, however, implies that we not only agree selectively with Jesus in the manner of those scribes who complimented Jesus, saying, “Teacher, you have answered well” (Lk. 20:39). Rather, we agree fully and wholeheartedly, not stumbling over Jesus’ teaching that passion and death are a prerequisite to the resurrection (Lk. 9:20-22, 44; 18:31-32).

And if dry bones are to hear the word of God so that the process of the resurrection may be set in motion (Ez. 37:4), then to be resurrected, we must listen to God’s final and definitive word, Jesus, heeding the command, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him” (Lk. 9:35). With Simon Peter, we will acknowledge likewise that Jesus has the words of eternal life and not join those who found hard and unacceptable the saying: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (Jn. 6:54-55, 60, 68).

Nourished at the table of God’s Word and Sacrament and strengthened, we can be, even as older adults or senior citizens, as eager as elderly St. Vincent de Paul to work for the well-being of the poor, unhindered by the aches and pains of advanced age, yet also ready to face and overcome death at any moment [2].


NOTES:

[1] Cf. http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Controversy-Jerusalem (accessed November 7, 2010).
[2] Cf. Jacques Delarue, The Holiness of Vincent de Paul (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1960) 44, 46.