Wednesday of the 9th Week of the Year
By JS Benitez
The Question about the Resurrection
It is said that about 200 years ago, the tomb of the great conqueror, Charlemagne was opened. The sight, the workmen saw, was startling. There was his body in a sitting position, clothed in the most elaborate of kingly garments, with a scepter in his bony hand. On his knee lay the Holy Scriptures, with a cold, lifeless finger pointing to Mark 8:36: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and loose his own soul?”
The Sadducees are the priestly and aristocratic class among the Jews. Somebody said that they control so much of the Jewish society together with the Pharisees and so it follows that they are all-out to protect at all costs their power, prestige and financial security. But unlike the Pharisees, they are more religiously conservative. They don’t believe in angels and in immortality. In today’s gospel, they deny that there is afterlife or resurrection or the idea of people rising again to life after they have died. But Jesus does believe. And so therefore, their understanding of resurrection is a distorted one and even to the extent of not accepting it. They seem to understand that Jesus’ teaching about resurrection is just a simple continuation of earthly life even to the point that the resurrected person still keeping the same wife or husband. They reject religious traditions and accept only the written commandments and the first five books of the Old Testament which are the basic books of the Jewish Bible. They do not accept the later books of the Old Testament which the idea of resurrection and prayer for the dead appear. The Protestants too do not accept the later books (the deutero-canonical books).
To this denial, Jesus answers quite seriously by saying that when God spoke to Moses, He identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob even if these three patriarchs had long been dead. Jesus continues to say: “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” And so therefore, if God is the God of the patriarchs, though they have died, they must still be living even up to today. God so loves these patriarchs and He would never allow His loved ones to be annihilated forever. The same with us when we love someone, we want to keep that someone alive forever. This same idea is said by Fr. Henri Nouwen in his book Seeds of Hope: “I think love – deep human love, does not know death… Real love says, ‘Forever.’ Love will always reach out toward the eternal. Love comes from that place within us where death cannot enter. Love does not accept the limits of hours, days, weeks, months, years, or centuries. Love is not willing to be imprisoned by time,” (p. 133).
When Jesus speaks of our resurrection like angels, it does not mean that we don’t have bodies anymore in life after death. In heaven our bodies, which are glorified bodies, will have different characteristics from our present bodies but they will continue to be our bodies. Our resurrected bodies will be different from this mortal life, but how? Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 999) says: “Christ is raised with His own body: ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself,’ (Lk 24:39); but He did not return to an earthly life. So, in Him, ‘all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,’ but Christ ‘will change our lowly body to be like His glorious body,’ into a ‘spiritual body,’ (Lateran Council IV-1215; Phil. 3:21).”
At the end let us pause for a moment and reflect these words also from St. Augustine. He said: “We are created to be with God and what we have in the resurrection of the body is the final stage of our preparation for union with God.”