THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
“Those who belong to this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are considered worthy of a place in that age and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. Indeed they cannot die any more, because they are like angels and are children of God, being children of resurrection... He is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive.”(Lk 20: 34-38)
The Pharisees and most of the Jews believed in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Jesus also affirmed that the dead would rise again.
In the traditional faith of the Catholic Church, the 'resurrection from the dead' and its following phrase 'eternal life' is an important belief. In the prayer, the Apostles' Creed, we say, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” In the Nicene Creed recited during Mass we say, “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” So in the Preface of the Mass for the Deceased, we pray, “In Christ who rose from the dead our hope of resurrection dawned. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality.”
But in Jesus' time the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection
of the dead. They proposed a scenario or a 'question' hoping that when
people heard it they would realize or feel that the resurrection of
the dead was ridiculous and meaningless, even laughable.
It is human nature to wish that the good things of this world could last forever, especially if this pertains to a truly happy, loving marriage. People not only hope to be with each other on this earth until death, but be inseparable afterwards, like bodies and their shadows. So all lovers hope to attain this state of union: “In heaven we shall be birds flying side by side, on earth flowering sprigs on the same branch”.(1) The appeal of the Chinese story of “The Cowboy and the Spinning Maid” is because they meet year after year, and continue on annually throughout eternity.
Jesus' answer went far beyond what the Sadducees had asked, which was whose wife would the woman be. Jesus told us that in the life to come, we would live forever in the home of the Father. As Paul said, we would have 'spiritual bodies.' “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor 15: 42-44)
Since we will have a “spiritual body”
then we will “neither marry nor be given
in marriage, but be like angels.” We will not belong
to any one person, or to a small group of persons, we will belong to
God and to all people. All of us will be in God, united with each other,
and we will become part of a perfect community of love, an everlasting
A Sister or Brother, or a priest of the Roman rite (priests of the Roman rite are emphasized here because Orthodox priests need not remain single), offer themselves totally to God and live for God and God's church. They choose to give up their right to marry and lead this kind of 'heavenly lifestyle.' They want to love all people and be loved by all people. They belong to all the people and in their hearts embrace all the people of the world.
The tale of the Great Yu who regulated the course of the rivers records that he “thrice passed his doors without entering them.”(2) He had no time to visit his family. When General Yuan Chong Huan was stationed at the border of East Liou Dong protecting his country and fighting off the attacks of the Ching soldiers, he sighed and said, “My father and mother cannot consider me as a son, My wife and children cannot consider me as a husband and father.”(3) Are not missionaries who travel afar over mountains and seas like this? They have offered their whole lives to God with little opportunity to build relationships with their own families.
Going a step further, a true family does not mean one builds up a world
of two people, or a closed group of three or four persons. People who
marry should not bury all their ambitions and allow themselves to sink
into an exclusive cozy nest of tenderness. A truly beautiful family
is the foundation of a healthy society and a living cell of the church.
Those who have been nurtured in the warmth of a happy family gain strength
from this and have greater energy to contribute to society and the church.