In Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 20:27-38), it is the Sadducees’ (those who didn’t believe in resurrection) turn to try to trip up Jesus, and so they give Him this extreme hypothetical about a woman who winds up marrying seven brothers (not all at once!) according to Mosaic law, and asking Him whose wife would she be in heaven. Jesus basically rejects their whole premise by stating that “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels.” And then Jesus speaks to them about a belief in resurrection coming from Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush (See Exodus 3): “That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘Lord,’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
This past week, we celebrated the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, and we have another reminder of our belief that not even death can cut us off from neither God nor our loved ones. But Jesus’ declaration of faith in the resurrection pertains not only to the life after this, but to the life we live now. Does it have anything to do with how we live our lives if we believe God is God of the living and not the dead?
We may all respond to that question in the affirmative, but what impact does it have to believe in God as God of the living? For me, our faith leads us to be oriented toward life. It orients us toward thanksgiving. It orients us toward hope. And it sustains us in love. Our second reading from 2 Thessalonians (2:16-3:5) speaks to this. St. Paul, in the beginning of our reading, writes, “May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.” Paul gives thanks for what God has already given (encouragement and hope and grace), and prays that his brother and sister Christians are encouraged and strengthened in good deeds and words.
May our deeds and words promote life! May we work not only with women considering ending their pregnancies, but also advocate for those whose lives have been degraded by poverty and oppression and injustice. May we work for an end to war and violence. May we care for the environment in which all life exists. In the words of our second reading, may the word of the Lord “speed forward” through us, so that people may know the generosity and love of God in Jesus Christ, who cherishes their lives and the lives of all.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.