|by Angela Lambert|
November 6th, 2016; 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel Luke 20:27-38
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. Then the second and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. Finally the woman also died. Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but 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 they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. 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.”
As Christians, we profess a belief in life eternal with Christ in Heaven, yet we can sometimes operate in our daily lives forgetful of this mystery. Like the Sadducees we ask Christ silly questions about heaven. When we attach ourselves too much to earthly life, we fall into the trap of imagining heaven as merely an extension of the present but with a few more perks.
Jesus reminds us of the incomparable difference between our journey to God here and union with God there. As St. Paul put it, “Eye has not seen and ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9). Even the good things we experience here are merely a prelude to heaven. Here we experience a taste, there we will enjoy the feast.
Jesus proposes to the Sadducees that contemplating the life of the angels can provide some insight into this mystery. Like humans, angels are persons with rational intellects, free will, and the ability to love. Unlike humans they do not have bodies, are neither male nor female, and do not procreate. Each angel was individually created by God and is completely unique, so much so that some have compared it to being like different species from one another. Because they live in eternity, their choices are permanent. When God created them they each had the choice to either accept or reject God’s will for their life and His mission for them. Some said yes to God’s will and others rejected it. Those who rejected God’s will we call the fallen angels or demons. Human persons have more than one moment to choose or reject God, but that space of time does have limits. For us it ends when we die; at which moment our choice becomes permanent.
Consequently, the space of time in which we live on earth really is only a preparation for eternal life. During this short period, we either choose to grow our love for God or develop a disdain for Him. Only during our earthly lifespan can we develop and increase our capacity for God. At the moment of death the opportunity for change ends.
In addition, it’s our chance to aid others in their chance of heaven, even in its most basic form – the beginning of life itself. Whereas God created all of the angels at once, He creates human persons over a course of time and includes them in His work. As a result, openness to life means openness to God’s creation of persons who will live eternally. Those called to spiritual motherhood or fatherhood also contribute to this mystery as they minister to the birth and development of the child’s love for God which is necessary for true life.
The Sadducees’ challenge to Christ with the hypothetical situation of a woman married seven times, merely exposed their ignorance of God. On earth marriage develops our capacity for love, self-gift, and sacrifice. It brings new life into the world as well as caring for the development of each family member. Marriage itself is not needed in heaven because no new life will be born there. It is the eternal life of those who already exist. Moreover, love will be perfected as we enjoy the perfect love of God and one another. The relationship of love experienced in marriage will remain a relationship of love in heaven. However, the title of husband or wife will be eclipsed by the fullness of the title son or daughter of God and sister and brother in Christ.
As the liturgical year comes to a close (Advent marks the beginning of the “New Year” in the Church), we contemplate the end times and remember that this experience of earthly life will eventually come to an end. We all get bogged down in our daily routine and anxious over matters that, if we considered our heavenly destination, shouldn’t really weigh us down. Moreover, we could make better use of our limited time if we consider things from an eternal perspective. This life is a preparation and an opportunity to participate in God’s work of spreading His kingdom. The more souls that come to accept His will and love on earth, the more that will join the wedding feast of love in Heaven for eternity.
- How does a heavenly perspective change your earthly perspective?
- When feeling discouraged, remember that this life is a journey not the destination. Endless, secure happiness cannot be found here but the work to attain it in heaven can.
- Through prayer, identify one area where you struggle to accept God’s will over your own.
- Each angel has a mission from God. You also have a mission. How is God calling you to serve?
- Consider first God’s vocational calling:
- Is it to work for the salvation of your spouse through love and sacrifice and to possibly grow the human family by being open to life and to raising children in knowledge and love of the Lord?
- Is it to administer the sacraments as a priest to bring eternal life to spiritual children?
- Is it to spend your life in prayer and sacrifice for souls as a religious sister or brother?
- Is it to devote your time and energy to God in a unique way as a single person, ready to do His will at every moment?
- Consider next God’s occupational calling: How do you grow your love for God and develop it in others through your work?
- Consider your special apostolate. Does God include you in His work of physical or emotional healing, protecting, providing, instruction of souls, encouragement, etc.?
- How can you incorporate a heavenly perspective into your daily work? How do your daily activities and duties provide opportunities to detach from selfishness and develop greater love and compassion? How might you help others to heaven through your work?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Begin each day by writing down the tasks, challenges, and opportunities you anticipate that day. Next to each, write one way it can be directed toward helping yourself and others to heaven. For example, will it grow a virtue or minimize a vice if tackled with the help of grace? Is it an opportunity to help others journey to God – either by giving them physical life, sustaining their life, healing, protecting, or developing an aspect of their soul?
- Identify where your will is most at odds with God’s and do one thing each day to offset it. It could be a refusal or fear to do something God asks of you or an unwillingness to let go of something and trust God in the situation.
- Pray the Serenity Prayer or the Suscipe of St. Ignatius each day. Click here for a pdf of the two prayrs: serenity-and-suscipe-prayers.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2016
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