32nd Sunday of ordinary time
In today's reading from St Paul he gives us a beautiful little prayer: 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. It seems to me that Jesus is doing this very thing in the gospel today. He tells us about the resurrection.
As you may be aware we are coming to the end of ordinary time. In a few weeks we will celebrate the feast of Christ the king, which is the end of the church year. Every year around this time the readings for mass start to take on an eschatological dimension. Now, don't be afraid of this word. Eschatological means having to do with the last things: death, judgment, the end of the world etc. Now, from the perspective of Hollywood and many people in the world today, eschatology is frightening. When we think of the end of the world we see visions of earthquakes, tsunamis, and other terrifying things. And while these things might take place, they are not the focus of Christian eschatology. Rather, the focus of Christian eschatology is always the resurrection. And the resurrection is always good news. In fact it is central to the entire gospel message: those who believe in Christ, even if they die, will live forever. So Jesus is giving us good news indeed, the resurrection is certainly the encouragement and hope that Paul is talking about in his prayer today.
What will the resurrection be like? To be honest we really do not know "eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has in store for those who love him." So whenever we are speaking about the resurrection we must remember that it is quite mysterious, the resurrection lies beyond the veil and it is clouded in mystery. That being said, we can say some things about the resurrection. First, we can say what the resurrection is not. The resurrection is not simply resuscitation. I think the Sadducees from today's gospel were under the impression that resurrection means we simply get up and keep living our human lives. Jesus corrects this mistaken concept. No, he says, the children of the age to come will be like the angels. So we will certainly be different. We should remember to read this passage in light of the rest of the Bible. Jesus says today that we will be like angels, but we read elsewhere that he will raise our mortal bodies to make them like his own in glory. We know that angels are spiritual beings without bodies, Jesus is not saying we will lose our bodies, he is just saying that our bodies will be spiritualized. What does this mean? We will find out on the last day.
Still, Jesus does give us an insight into that last day. He tells us that they are neither given nor received in marriage. What could this mean? Marriage means "till death do us part," but what about the other side of eternity? Jesus tells us that we are not married in heaven. Why not? Marriage is a sacrament. Like all the sacraments, these are signs of eternal realities. When we experience these realities for ourselves the signs will pass away. What is being expressed in the sign of marriage? Love, right! Marriage is a sign of love, two people agree to give of themselves completely for the rest of their lives by a commitment of love. St Paul tells us in Ephesians that this is a sign for the relationship between Christ and his church. However, on the last day this sign will be fulfilled. There is no marriage in heaven, not because there is no love in heaven, there will be a fullness of love. The love between a married couple today is supposed to be the sign of love between God and the human race. On the last day we will experience this union in its fullness. No wonder we call this good news! What exactly will this look like? Eye has not seen, ear has not heard... But isn't it exciting? Doesn't it sound wonderful: complete and total union with God forever? Certainly this gives us the hope St Paul mentions in the second reading. It is this hope which brings our RCIA candidates and catechumens here today. They are seeking nothing less than to be with God forever. Let's continue to keep them in our prayers as they journey toward Easter.
We believe that all those who are joined to Christ will be raised with him on the last day. But, we don't have to wait until then to experience this communion. Jesus said in John's gospel: I am the bread of life, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood, even if he dies, will live and I will raise him up on the last day.