November 11, 2007

ORDINARY 32 (C)

He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.

- Luke 20: 38

“There will be a new tomorrow, there will be a brighter day, there will be a new tomorrow, love will find a way.” These lyrics are found in a pop song that came out of England some years ago. A cynic would find them too infantile & naïve, unable to stand up to the uncertainty that embraces all of life. Such words would be considered a classic example of wishful thinking run riot.

The Sadducees would agree, but for entirely different reasons. They had two objections to the idea of the resurrection of the dead based on Mosaic Law: (1) It could not accommodate the command about brother-in-law marriages, & (2) Contact with a dead body requires purification, but a resurrected person would have come into contact with his own dead body. Underlying the arguments is a thorough-going materialism. In short, they confuse resurrection with resuscitation. They set up a straw man & then pick him apart.

The social situation behind the marriage law was the threat of extinction. Children had to be raised up, if not by the husband then by the husband’s brother. Resurrected people will not die, so there is no threat of extinction. Such people will be defined by the operations of the Spirit rather than the restrictions of the flesh. The dead do not rise & go on just as they did when they were alive: it is a whole new order of existence.

This brings us to that strain of Christian spirituality known as the via negativa: faith is based on authentic knowing, but that is contrasted with a humble not-knowing. Every revelation of God is simultaneously concealment. When dealing with the infinite, our finite minds will always recognize that there is more to the relationship than we know. The more we know about the divine-human relationship, the more there is to know about. But uncertainty is what makes us anxious. The hunger for certitude is particularly evident when we ponder questions of life after death.

Modern physics has discovered a fundamental uncertainty in the realm of matter, in short, ravishing Mystery. When we recognize that there are possibilities we can acknowledge but not predict, hope may emerge in a new, more humble form. We cannot demand to know everything before we dare to hope.

St. Paul urged the Thessalonians to “not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thess 4: 13). This means we should grieve the loss of the ones we love, but the Gospel of Christ confronts us with the truth that our physical eyes do not see all secrets. The resurrection reveals a world beyond the senses, a strange & everlasting connection between human consciousness & God. Our faith affords us the two attitudes most needed for the transition to death: trust & a capacity for surprise.

Those who delve deeply into the Mystery of the Divine like the saints have come to learn that God can be trusted in all things, but this means being prepared for surprises. Being in God’s hands means being possessed by Something far better than we could have devised for ourselves, namely, that God’s love DOES find a way to give us a new tomorrow. For which, thanks be to God. AMEN!