VICTORY OVER EVIL AND DEATH IN THE RESURRECTION
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ REV 11:4-12; LUKE 20:27-40 ]
In the gospel, the question of levirate marriage was posed by the Sadducees to contradict and ridicule faith in the resurrection. In a levirate marriage, the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his widow and raise their children in the deceased brother’s name. This law was meant to perpetuate the family line so that the land was also kept in the family. With the intention of embarrassing Jesus, they came up with a story of a widow who married all seven brothers who died one after another and eventually she herself died childless. By showing the absurdity of the woman’s dilemma, the doctrine of the resurrection would be seen as inconsistent.
Indeed, this disbelief in the resurrection is something that is as prevalent in our world today as it was during the time of the Lord. Many do not believe in the resurrection. Some religions at least believe in some form of after-life, whether in the immortality of the soul or in reincarnation till they reach Nirvana. When the after-life is not taken seriously, the implications are far-reaching. Those who do not believe in life after death often do not take seriously the life they are living here and now. Since for them death is total annihilation of the person, the motive for working hard, for protecting the future of humanity, for living a good and honest life becomes groundless. This explains why many who do not believe in an after-life of sorts live life only for themselves. After all, without any real hope for the future, why should one work so hard or build anything for tomorrow, knowing that what they do today would be undone tomorrow. So as a consequence, they just live for today, enjoy as much as they can, grab whatever is available, since after death, there is no second chance.
But the truth is that there is life after death and for Christians, it is more than just a continuity of an immortal soul but the resurrection of the body as well. In the gospel, Jesus makes the fact of the resurrection clear. Of course, we must not imagine the resurrected body to be a simple continuity of this earthly body. This would not be a resurrection but resuscitation. A resurrected body is quite different because it is entirely transformed, like the Risen Lord who appeared to His disciples. But He was so transformed that without faith, one would not be able to recognize Him. This was what the Lord sought to explain in refuting the objection of the Sadducees. He said, “The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection, they are sons of God.”
Indeed, in our resurrected bodies, we become children of God, sharing in the same Heavenly Father. All earthly ties become secondary and there is no question of perpetuating our family lineage. This does not mean we cannot recognize our loved ones in heaven. We can, just as the disciples could recognize the Risen Lord as being identical with the Jesus of Nazareth. But there will no longer be any exclusive or earthly attachment or possessiveness as on earth. In heaven, we will love everyone deeply and inclusively as brothers and sisters the way God loves us. What is important to emphasize is that at the resurrection, we will no longer be husbands or wives or children in relation to each other but all of us will be one in Christ, sharing in His adopted sonship or daughtership. We will all be children of God. St Paul wrote, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:26-28)
However, faith in the resurrection of the body, or life after death, presupposes we have faith in God or at least in the world of Spirits. The denial of the resurrection of the body and the after-life is the consequence of a materialistic outlook of the human person and the world. When the world is reduced to mere matter without the spirit, this is where faith in the resurrection cannot be sustained as well; neither the immortality of the soul. This is the attempt of the world and of Satan to mislead humanity into thinking that spirits do not exist. This was the case of the Sadducees when they denied the existence of angels. (cf Acts 23:8) By rejecting the spirit world, the Sadducees categorically also rejected the existence of God because God is pure Spirit. Atheism and humanism err in ignorance by denying that the Spirit World exists.
In denying the existence of spirits, not only do they deny the existence of God but they also compromise the understanding of the place of man in creation. If we are only made of matter like the rest of creation, animals and plants, then why do we give a special place to man? Denying the reality of God’s existence necessarily raises the question of anthropology. Who is man? Why is he so special in creation? Why do we speak of human rights? Why can’t we kill each other as we like? Why do we all have a conscience? Why are we born with a moral imperative in each of us? Is morality a question of conditioning or the voice of God speaking in us? What, then, is our purpose in life? What are we living for? What is the value of all that we do on this earth? If everything comes to nought, then why do we do what we are doing? Why shouldn’t we just allow this world to perish since there is so much suffering in this world anyway? Why do we want to perpetuate suffering and life on this earth?
When we keep asking the fundamental questions, what is the final outcome? Nihilism! Indeed, if we only ask these questions, we will either end up with faith in God or in total self-destruction. This explains why many atheistic philosophers end up in annihilation. When life has no purpose, there is no reason to carry on. If we live, we live for more than just pleasure because we are not mere animals. We are embodied spirits. We live for love and meaning. But we want love to be true and lasting. Temporary love also does not have much meaning because they do not last. It is in our deep desire that our love will be everlasting.
For this reason, Jesus reiterated that the God we worship is a living God. He cited the scripture regarding Moses whom the Sadducees believed in. “Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.” It is faith in a living God that is the basis for our faith in the resurrection of the body and the life to come. It is this living God that Christ has come to reveal to us by His life, passion, death and resurrection.
Today, we must be like the two witnesses in the book of revelation. We are called to be like Moses and Elijah of the Old Testament who, through God’s power, called down plagues and fire to destroy God’s enemies. Or we are called to be like Peter and Paul the great apostles, martyrs and pillars of the Church, who preached to the Jews and the Gentiles and died for the faith. But we are told that if we persevere in our battle against the Evil One, we will eventually overcome him. God is all powerful and He has won the victory for us in Christ. But the Church as His body continues this battle of proclaiming Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life to all of humanity that has lost faith in God, in themselves and in the purpose of life. Indeed, we read that even if we are hated by the world, suffer opposition and death, which was the case for all who stood up for Christ, He will raise us up. “After the three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud.” Indeed, with faith and joy we say with the psalmist, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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