Meditation of the Most Rev. Pizzaballa for Sunday, November 6
November 6, 2016
XXXII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
The episode narrated in the Gospel of today takes place in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus fulfilled his long journey, which started in Chapter 9. He went up to Jerusalem (Lk 19:29ss), wept over the city, then entered the Temple, where he expelled the merchants, a way for him to take possession of the place that belongs to him, his Father’s house.
In the days that followed, the days immediately preceding his Passion, Jesus often returns to the Temple, in his house, and there exercises his authority, teaching there. The Gospel of Luke, like the other Synoptic Gospels, describes a series of disputes between Jesus and the leaders of the people, who try to humiliate and disgrace him, to plunge him into error, to deprive him of his authority that people recognize without any doubt: “all the people were hanging on his words”. (Lk 19:48).
In the Gospel of today, is one of these arguments initiated by the Saducees, a group associated with the priestly aristocracy, who question Jesus about the resurrection. Luke states that, in reality, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection at all. So it immediately reveals the malice of their statement for they do not have any interest to discuss freely, the mystery of God, but only seeks to ridicule the authority of Jesus and his teaching.
To demonstrate this, they ironically present a fictitious situation, thinking to successfully prove that resurrection is not possible. The resurrection, according to their reasoning, would only prolong life, which would only indefinitely extend the drama of existence, without ever resolving it.
In fact, the theme of the resurrection, as presented by the Sadducees, is extremely trivialized.
On the contrary, the Resurrection is the central theme of life and faith. It is what everyone, sooner or later would face and this is what makes the difference.
And it is also a fundamental theme, even for Jesus. It is no coincidence that Jesus is confronted by this, precisely in the days before his Passion, the days when the mystery of the Resurrection will be experienced and revealed in a definitive and complete way. Jesus himself is the Resurrection, he himself is the keystone to this incomprehensible dilemma.
Jesus here does not declare openly, as for example in the Gospel of John, when speaking with Martha, who mourns the death of her brother Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (Jn 11:25-26).
It may be that here it did not happen because of the inability of his adversaries to receive a revelation and a great gift.
But there may be another reason, or that Jesus knows that one cannot really talk about the Resurrection without going through death, without experiencing pain, limitations ,and the anguish that the coming days would have held in reserve. It is only after having gone through all these, that Jesus can truthfully say what is the Resurrection and the Life.
And only those who will see him enter into this mystery of death and then rise alive, will also know the mystery of his Resurrection.
The Sadducees, instead, are trying to trivialize what to Jesus, and to the Father, is most important, and that is not so much a question of law, of descendants, of husbands and sons, but it concerns the salvation of man, for which Jesus came into the world, and for which he faced the days of sorrow and death.
Jesus enters into the days of his Passion with a profound awareness, which is the heart of the Resurrection: that of the fidelity of the Father.
And it is precisely what Jesus speaks with the Sadducees, to answer their question. If the God they believe in is the God of the Covenant (with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, v. 20-37), if he is a God of love, if he is the Father, then this God cannot accept that none of those he loves is lost. He will not leave us at the mercy of darkness, of death, of nothingness.
If the covenant made with Abraham and renewed in his own person, it is the choice of God to make us partakers of his life, nothing can prevent the fullness of this life: not even death.
All this, Jesus himself believes, and Jesus himself will soon experience. He will be the firstborn among men in this new history, in which every creature walks towards the renewal of all creation, to the fullness of life.
And the Sadducees, with the inconsistency of their claim, do nothing else to prove that life, for it to be true and worthy and not to be trivial, needs the Resurrection. Otherwise it is reduced to an inconceivable mystery, sterile, closed in on oneself.
They also show that they believe in a god who is equally barren, incapable of giving life, in contrast to the Father, Who in death itself, brings forth life.