JUNE 2, 2001: HOMILY- JOEL 3:1-11, 16; MARK 12:17-27

 

WHEN THEY RISE FROM THE DEAD MEN AND WOMEN DO NOT MARRY; THEY ARE LIKE THE ANGELS OF GOD. In his discussion with the Sadducees our Lord draws aside very briefly the veil that covers the world to come. That there is such a world, quite distinct in its nature from our physical universe he was fully convinced and based his whole life as well as his teaching on this radical persuasion. He taught that this world is our final destiny and made it clear that it is consists in a personal relation with God the Father.

 

This world that is our future destiny already exists; indeed it is eternal, being co-existent with God Himself. In point of fact, Saint John tells us in the first lines of his Gospel, the person of Jesus came into this material world in a point of time from this veiled world that is the presence of God himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Our Lord refers to this hidden universe as the kingdom of God. He made it his purpose to reveal something of its nature as well as the requirements for entering it to the men and women of his times and arranged that the teaching he imparted was spread throughout this world and would continue through the ages. In today’s Gospel, with a show of impressive confidence he discloses a feature of this world of the future for which we are destined that provides a glimpse into the kind of existence that informs us of its general character.  Very strikingly, the Lord teaches that this world to come, whose very essence is a loving communion with God himself, is to be populated not only by spiritual beings but also by the bodies of those who attain to the kingdom of God. However, entry into this presence of God entails a radical transformation of the body of those who are given entrance into its sphere. No longer will our human bodies be governed by the familiar laws of this material universe; the very matter that constitutes the body will be so subject to the Spirit that it takes on the nature of a spiritual being. When Saint Luke recorded this same exchange our Lord had with the Sadducees he seems to have coined a new word in Greek: isangelos which means “the same as an angel.”

 

The Sadducees were the liberals of their day; they were men of learning and logic and like the materialists of our modern times were dominated by the limitations of reductive logical thinking in their conception of the human condition. Our Lord, however, does not accept their perspective; on the contrary, he points out that only those guided by that wisdom revealed by God are capable of understanding human destiny that is ordered to another world, the world of God Himself. Saint Matthew was struck by this feature of Jesus’ teaching, and recalled some of his remarks in this connection that made a deep impression. “I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these matters from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to little ones.” (11: 25)

 

Today’s Gospel and these texts from Matthew and Luke take on a fresh application in our own times when increasingly the men and women of our Western culture, like the Sadducees of Jesus’ times, put their faith in the workings of human science, unaware of its limited scope of insight. Already in the centuries before the birth of Christ, there were inspired Jewish teachers who had received the wisdom of which Jesus speaks. They understood it that its scope includes the realm of reason and logic, but far surpasses its legitimate limits. Ben Sira understood this truth well and was so impressed with its importance for human living that he made it the very first point of his book. Here are his opening words:  “All wisdom is from the Lord, and with him it remains forever. . . . Wisdom was created before all other things, and prudent understanding from eternity. The root of wisdom—to whom has it been revealed? Her subtleties—who knows them?” Saint Paul was to reflect intently on this question and provided an answer that alone is adequate to its full depths when he too confronted those who were overly impressed by the limited human wisdom, so cherished by the Greeks of his day: “He (God) is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor 1:30) To enter into the presence of Jesus by desire in to find the place of that wisdom that is the secret of human fulfillment. As Saint Bernard put it at the last period of his life: “To taste and see that the Lord is good— that is wisdom” (In Cant.85:.9) In prayer we can hope to experience the loving goodness of God who is our Father, and, by tasting of His goodness at the table of the Lord become truly wise as children of the kingdom.&


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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