“The Goal of Being Sons of the Resurrection”
November 6, 2016: The Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Proper 27)
Job 19: 13 – 27/ Psalm 17: 1 - 2; 6-15/2 Thessalonians 2: 15 - 3: 5/ Luke 20: 27 - 38
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
In the gospel, the Sadducees gave Jesus a hard time trying to entrap Him with their questioning and what they present before Him. There was involved in this particular passage a question from the Sadducees for they did not believe in the resurrection like the Pharisees did. They disagreed in this area.
In trying to interpret this, I won’t pretend to know all the details. Let us pay attention to what Jesus said. Jesus Christ gave us a brief description of what is to come, but consider the ridiculously, obvious question of the Pharisees who wanted to just ensnare Jesus. Citing an example, there were seven brothers where the youngest got married. He did not have a child by her and he died. The second brother married the widow and died also childless. The third and the rest of the brothers married her until all of them died, leaving the woman with no child. In the Old Testament, there is a provision to marry the widow of another brother if they did not have a son so that they can attempt to raise a son in honor of a dead brother.
Jesus corrected the Pharisees. In the accounts of Matthew and Mark, Jesus said to them, “You are mistaken because you don’t understand the Scriptures or the power of God.” I would like us to open our hearts and our minds so that God can help us understand what He wants us to understand. Jesus gave us a basic description of what our risen bodies will be. He said that we will not be angels. We will be like them, not as angels, in that we will be more spiritually mature, more like God. There will be no more sin and death; there will no longer be the consequences of sin and death, which are sickness, sorrow, suffering, pain and ultimately death and decay. These will no longer be there in the resurrection.
Like the Sadducees, we can’t conceive of the age to come beyond what we are used to seeing with our eyes – the worldly realities. In fact, in this gospel, the Sadducees asked about death. Earlier in the gospel, they asked about taxes also. How much more worldly can you get than death and taxes?
Beyond what eyes can see is what Jesus wants us to grasp. In 1Corinthians 2:9-10, St. Paul said, “Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him.” In 1Corinthians 13, he said, “We see dimly as in a mirror at this point.” We don’t see the fullness of what God wants from us. He gives us a glimpse. We see dimly, as in a mirror, and we know only in part. In Ecclesiasticus 43, it says, “We know only a fraction of His works.” Especially with a worldly mind, we won’t be able to grasp and the farther we will be from that which God wants us to understand and put in our hearts.
Psalm 17 said about the men of the world whose portion is in this life. It reminded me of what St. Paul said in 1Corinthians, “If we hope only for this life, then, we, of all men, should be most pitied.” If our Christian hope gives us hope only for this life and no resurrection from the dead, then we are, of all men, most pitied because our Christian hope looks for the life of the world to come as we say in the Creeds. Whose portion is it in this life, in the world’s ways, in taking advantage of each other in self-gain and not in giving or being like God? This confronts us: are we like this? If we don’t recognize spiritual realities, it is because we try to make heaven into an earthly or worse worldly reality and selfish image.
Many of us, probably more males than females, can't imagine a life without romance. If we are honest, we can’t imagine what life would be without what we would call, “romantic love.” In our early teens, we have crushes and puppy love. This is why I really and honestly admire those who commit themselves to God and take a vow of celibacy particularly priests. I don’t necessarily agree with them, but I salute them for giving their lives and sacrificing what most men can’t afford to live without, that is, getting married. There is even a statistic, which I don’t know if it is true, that the average grown up male thinks of sex every five seconds. It is like, “What is life without it?” This is what most worldly people think. For many men, celibacy is inconceivable.
We think of life as just consisting of what we used to and what society tells us. If we do that, we limit God. Understand first of all the joys that we think make up life all comes from God. Since God is eternal, don’t you think He has something better for us than what He has so far given us? He gave us this phenomenon that we are awed with called romantic love, and it came from Him. Marriage came from God; Eve came from God; and she was His gift to Adam. Don’t you think that He can give us something better and outdo Himself and give us joy that is far higher than what we think it is already? That which we think makes up life has an expiry date. If not death, it may be a failure of our physical abilities. What we think makes up life is not eternal. God is eternal and He can give us something, a lot more lasting than the things we think are the answer to all the world’s problems.
Some of us think in terms of food. When we are asked to do something, in a jest we would say, “Why would I do that, will I benefit from that like I enjoy food?” This is shallow in terms of temporal things. Food accompanies everything that we do, but the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking. It is all about joy, peace, righteousness, and the Holy Spirit.
In our immature minds, we are like children. In the mind of a child, what is joy? To them, joy is playing, gummy bears, gummy worms, toys, Oreos, cookies, cake with lots of icing and sandwiches with an overload of mayonnaise. Children love to jump on beds, but not the adults. Children don’t understand why adults don’t jump on bed. The joy of the adults would be lying on the bed and that adults think of children as not understanding why we do what we do and children would like to say that adults don’t understand the joy of jumping on beds.
When we are children, we think like children. Ineffable joy that God wants us to have is unappreciated by and unfathomable to, the limited, imperfect, immature, and many times selfish flesh and mind and heart. In 1Corinthians 13, St. Paul said, “When I was a child, I used to think like a child. I had desires like a child; but when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
As we mature, we outgrow childish things and we begin to appreciate grown-up things. In our worldly, selfish minds, what we think of is comfort and feeling good, which is included. Jesus said that there will no more be pain, death and suffering and we will be like angels, but the life of the world to come is first of all about being like God in His divinity and in His character. Don’t look forward to heaven where you will be given fresh diapers and a harp and you will be given a cloud on which you can lie down. Heaven may provide for us freedom from sickness, peace, but first of all, the life of the world to come is about us dying to the world and rising up with Christ to be like Him, to have His character and to have the fullness of love that He has in His heart. We will not be God, but we will be like God.
1 John 3:2 says that when Christ appears, we will see Him, we will know Him, and we will be just like Him. It is like looking in the mirror. Collectively, we will gain the full stature of Christ. He, being the head, and we, being the body, we will be reconciled to each other because we would be one and just be like Him. We will be compatible with Him. We could not be reconciled today because we haven’t reached the fullness of the stature of Christ, so we can’t be fully connected to Him.
Psalm 17 ends with, “I will be satisfied. I will be fulfilled. I will be joyful with Your likeness.” It is not only the fact that we will sing praises to God all day in heaven or we will have no sickness, not get hungry anymore, and there will be a feast before us; but first of all, we will find ourselves in His likeness when we awake or prophetically speaking when we resurrect.
The Collect for today says, “May we purify ourselves as He is pure that when He comes again, we may be made like Him.” How are we supposed to be made like Him? We grow to that point. In this life, we strive to reach that stature of holiness by being an active participant in the work of God, in the kingdom of God. We are not just to be a spectator, but a partaker of the divine nature.
I grew up in a “mahjong environment.” There are four players, but the impression in my mind was that there were many more spectators than the players and who many times would coach the players as if they know better. In the United States, the big game they have is football. The people who watched on TV think they know better and they are called “armed-chair quarterbacks.” Don't be just a spectator. Be a player; get involved.
In our past government, people have complained about the plight of the MRT/LRT passengers. The head of the agencies who are supposed to handle these complaints and solve the problems don’t even experience these so how can they help the people? Those who are trying to solve the traffic spend their day in the offices and when they get out on the road, they have escorts so they don’t understand the experience of getting caught in traffic and yet they are the ones who are expected to solve these problems.
This is the reason Jesus became incarnate so that He can tell us, “I know what you go through. I know; I became man. I know your pain, your temptations, your sufferings and your emotions. I know how it feels to lose a very good friend to death (His experience with Lazarus.) I know how it is to be betrayed by the very people that you are close to, so I know how to help you. I have been to what you have gone through and I know how to solve your problem. I can encourage you.”
There is a TV show “Undercover Boss.” The CEO of a company goes undercover and joins his staff, the blue-collar work, and it gives him a deeper understanding of what the rank and file goes through. In many cases, that helps him reform certain policies and reward the people who really matter. I worked for McDonald’s for three years. Each manager had to go through stations so that they would know the operations and to understand how it feels to get burned in hot oil or to slip in a wet area.
This is what Jesus did for us, so that He could empathize with us and go through what we went through. He still, in fact, goes through what we go through so that we cannot ask, “Where are You, Lord, in all of these sufferings that we are experiencing? He is right there, standing with us, experiencing it with us.
For us to get a better understanding of what God has in store for us, we have to put on His divinity. As Jesus put on our humanity so He can lift us up, we respond by putting on His divinity that we can understand Him more and come closer to understanding Him and what He has in store for us.
We cannot fully understand God because He is eternally inexhaustible, but we can come closer to that understanding if we are free from earthly and worldly concerns. Philippians 3:10-11, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.” We are to be sons of the resurrection. What are to resurrect from in the first place? It is the worldly ways. We need to die to the worldly things. This is why we are baptized. We have a preview of what our mission is. We need to die to what the world systems are and rise with Christ in the new life of His eternal resurrection.
Unending joy; happy moments in this life are temporary. In enjoying something, the thought of it ending casts a shadow on our joy. Our joy in that age, in that day will be better than we have ever experience plus our joy will be unending. We don’t even think of when it will end or to say, “Let us enjoy this while it lasts.” It will last forever. When we have been there ten thousand years, we have no less days to sing God’s praise and enjoy His presence.
Before anything else, our being sons of the Resurrection is first being like God, being children like their Father. This is eternal life; this is what we grow into and that is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.