Today’s Gospel reading (Luke 20: 27-38) opens with a question aimed at tripping Jesus up. The first word out of the Sadducees mouth reveals how might have known better. Had they known better, they might not have tried to school the Master.
Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to Jesus, saying: Teacher,…
When you ask the Teacher a loaded question, be prepared for a loaded answer.
Sadducees were religious skeptics who denied tenets of the Jewish faith, such as the resurrection of the body, the immortality of the soul, and the afterlife. Ultimately, they denied the notion of transcendence. They limited the teachings of the Torah to a moral code that related only to matters of this life. They reduced God’s power to governing a transient world to which all mortals were intrinsically bound. In a nutshell, their teaching ruined the possibility of hope.
The divine teacher used their example to teach 3 important lessons, the same lessons the Church relates to us in the Liturgy of the Word as the liturgical calendar draws to a close.
- Our simple minds simply do not fathom the reality of the afterlife. When we rationalize and try to calculate too much about things that are way above our heads in order to figure it all out, we may run the risk of converting to skeptics, like the Sadducees. The very example they use in their attempt to confound the Lord only shows how muddled their own thoughts are, because they confuse perishable matters of our present world with the imperishable reality of the next life. Think about it. All 7 brothers in their story die — they perish! How can they even think this could make a reasonable example to suggest that there is no afterlife? And this is the point that the Lord wants them to realize. It’s like, “Guys! People don’t die in the afterlife. Get with it!” In order for them to get with the program, they need to learn simplicity.
- Jesus want’s to instruct them about the same thing the liturgy this month aims to remind us: we need to understand that the present world is passing away, literally, as we speak; and the things of this world are only meant to be means to help us accomplish our ultimate goal, which is eternal life in heaven. Therefore, we need to focus our gaze on that goal, the purpose of our perishable lives on earth. When we are too attached to perishable things, we bind ourselves to the transient commodities of this world, which will never fulfill us. This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to turn our eyes toward the reality of heaven. Thus, the liturgy, during these last weeks leading up to Advent, repeatedly gives us this reminder. The End that we need to keep in mind is our unending destiny, in heaven. In order for us to let this reality sink in and touch our hearts, we must take what the liturgy presents us to our prayer.
- In order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we must become like little children. Perhaps, Sadducees are to sophisticated to get this. Here is where Jesus reveals himself to be the One True Teacher, the Divine Pedagogue. The word pedagogue, which means teacher, comes from two Greek words: paidos, meaning child; and agagon, meaning leader. Like the rich young man who calls Jesus “Good master,” but does not know exactly what he is saying, so do the Sadducees not realize the truth behind their words when they address the Lord as “Teacher.” Jesus is THE Teacher: the one who teaches us the way to heaven. Like a skilled master teacher, he instructs us little by little, takes us from where we are and leads us by the hand, guiding us on our way in this life toward our eternal home. So we must become like simple children when we approach our Lord with questions — questions that may be perplexing to us become easier to process, when we leave it to the divine pedagogue to help us resolve them. For our part, then, we should adopt the attitude of a child and trust.
Simplicity, prayer, and trust are the takeaway from this week’s Gospel. Ask the Lord which of these you may need to exercise more, so that you can focus more on what really matters in life, i.e., the things that await us at the end of our lives, the things that endure so that we may enjoy them forever.