Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 20:27-38

Since the death of Br Herbert Kaden, a monk of the Turvey communities, and the celebration of All Saints and All Souls, I have been turning round in my heart and mind what I understand about our passing from this world to the next. I have been put back in touch with my seven-year-old self who learnt the Penny Catechism:

Why did God make you?
God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.

So far so good. God has a plan for me, and it involves not only this world but ‘the next.’

Of which must you take more care, of your body or of your soul?
I must take more care of my soul; for Christ has said, ‘What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?’

At this point my seven-year-old self is a bit confused and a little afraid. Life is very physical for a seven-year-old. I need to be warm, well fed, have affection and enjoy nice things. What about my soul?

And then to the last page of the Catechism:

After your night prayers what should you do?
After my night prayers I should observe due modesty in going to bed; occupy myself with thoughts of death; and endeavour to compose myself at the foot of the Cross, and to give my last thoughts to my crucified Saviour.

I am frightened now and that promise of my being ‘happy with him forever in the next‘ seems a long way away.

I bring all of these thoughts to today’s Gospel text. Underlying the whole scene is a very human question: What happens when we die? The Sadducees hold a position which from our vantage point seems strange and perhaps a little sad. They don’t believe in resurrection. Their questioning of Jesus is designed to trap and also to poke fun.

On one level their question is a category error: Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’

We know that we are promised life with God, but just what form this will take we do not really know. Our theological talk uses phrases like ‘beatific vision’, ‘perpetual light’, ‘everlasting glory’ and ‘bliss’. But when we try to unpack what exactly this might mean we are likely to make appeal to metaphors. We often console ourselves when someone dies by imagining them being reunited with family members and friends. We can’t say for certain if this will be the case, as resurrection remains a mystery to us.

Sr Verna Holyhead summarises our hope in the resurrection in a helpful way:

The power of the resurrection is utterly new and overwhelmingly transforming. To be children of the resurrection is to be ready to commit ourselves into the hands of God, accepting that our relationship with God surpasses any other human relationship, no matter how intimate and loving.

Jesus challenges the Sadducees’ picture of God when he says:

Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.

My picture of God is constantly challenged too when I engage with the Gospels. While we cannot be certain what heaven will entail, we do know that God’s love and mercy are far beyond what we could ever imagine. The Risen Christ is among us and invites us to live the resurrected life here and now. My seven-year-old self knew what to do and was ready to ‘know him, love him and serve him.’

How can you live as child of the resurrection this week?

So, the invitation this week is to commit ourselves