November 9, 2016 -  32nd Sunday "C"

2 M 7,1-2.9-14; 2 Th 2,16--3,5; Lk 20,27-38




The Sadducees in this Gospel are not really interested in learning from Jesus.  They are simply trying to set a trap for him.  Since they do not believe in resurrection, they want to show that such a belief leads to ridiculous consequences.  Jesus' answer is rather mysterious.  In fact, he just wants to show that it is their whole approach that is ridiculous.  They try to “imagine” what life is like after death; and this is impossible, because we can "imagine” something only by using "images" from our present limited life.  But life after death is beyond all theses images and these limitations.  It will not be a new life; it will be the same life, but freed from all the limits of our present temporal existence.


There is something else that I find quite interesting in today's readings. It is the points of contact between the first reading, from the book of Maccabees and the Gospel.  Of course there is an obvious point of contact in the fact that both express faith in the resurrection of the flesh.  There is also another point of contact less obvious but as important. It is the fact that the Sadducee movement had something to do with the Maccabees’ revolt.  And that may have something to teach us.


The first great period in the history of the people of Israel was the time of Exodus, when Yahweh formed his people through the experience of the desert.  The second great period was the time of the Exile when, through the teaching of the prophets Yahweh prepared the re-birth of his people.  The most beautiful fruit of that period was the movement of the Hassidim, the devout or the pious ones, among whom were the Anawim, or the Poor of Yahweh.


After the return of the remnant to the land of Israel, and a new domination by foreign powers, when the pagan authorities wanted to force the Jews to apostatize, the Maccabees revolt against that pagan power found its support mostly among the charismatic movement of the Hassidim and the Poor of Yahweh.


But unfortunately, the Maccabees’ revolt, that was in its origin, a deeply spiritual movement, became rapidly a political power that accepted several compromises with the pagan authorities, to the point where one of the Maccabees became both the King of Israel and the High Priest, without belonging either to the priestly family or to the kingly family.  That was too much for the faithful of Yahweh, and they broke away in a movement of spiritual revolt.  From that spiritual revolt three great spiritual groups were born: the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes.


Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees had a great and deep spiritual influence on the evolution of the people of Israel, and on preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah.  But when the Messiah did come, these movements had lost their spiritual sap, and were concerned with the preservations of their traditions, and not open at all to the new life brought about by Jesus. The two parties had become rather conservative, religiously as well as politically, as are easily those who, having acquired power, privileges and riches have no interest in anything changing.


All this is a lesson for us.  The lesson is that we must always be attentive, as a Christian community, and as a monastic community, less we fall into the same danger of sclerosis and lukewarmness.  In the history of the Church many movements that started with a great charismatic enthusiasm soon became fossilized.  Monasticism has remain alive in the Church only because it has periodically undergone reform and conversion.


So, what is really important for us, as for the Sadducees, is not to discover through our imagination or through the last private revelation what life after death will look like, but unceasingly to continue, as a community as well as individuals, that constant conversion process that will permit us, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, to be united with all our brothers and sisters in the eternal "today" of God.


Armand Veilleux