5 June 2024 - Wednesday of the 9th even-numbered week

2 Tim 1:1-3, 6-12; Mk 12:18-27


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

There's something else that I find very interesting in relation to this Gospel. It is the origin of the Sadducee movement. The origin of the Sadducee movement is linked to the Maccabean revolt. And this too can teach us something.

The first great period in the history of the people of Israel was the time of the Exodus, when the Lord formed His people through the experience of the desert. The second great period was the time of exile, during which, through the teaching of his prophets, the Lord prepared the rebirth of His people. The finest fruit of this period was the movement of the Hasidim, the pious, among whom were the Anawim, or Poor of the Lord.

After the return of the ‘little remnant’ to the land of Israel, and a new domination by a foreign power, when the pagan authorities wanted to force the Jews to apostatise, the Maccabean revolt against the pagan power found support above all in the charismatic movement of the Hasidim and the Poor of the Lord.

Unfortunately, the Maccabean revolt, which was originally a deeply spiritual movement, quickly became a political power that accepted several compromises with the pagan authorities, to the point where one of the Maccabees became King of Israel and High Priest, without belonging to either the royal or priestly families. This was too much for the Lord's faithful ones, who broke away from this power in a revolt. This spiritual revolt gave rise to three major spiritual groups: the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the Essenes (a group with a well-known ‘monastic’ character, especially since the discoveries at Qumran).

The Pharisees and Sadducees had a great and profound spiritual influence on the people of Israel, preparing them for the coming of the Messiah. But when the Messiah came, these movements had lost their spiritual lifeblood. Preoccupied with preserving their traditions, they failed to open up to the new light brought by Jesus.

Isn't there a lesson and a warning here for us? It is that we must always be very attentive, as an ecclesial community and as a monastic community, lest we fall into the danger of sclerosis and lukewarmness. Many movements in the history of the Church began with great charismatic enthusiasm, only to become fossilised later on. Monasticism has remained in the Church for two millennia only because it has periodically experienced moments of reform and conversion.

What is really important, for us as for the Sadducees, is not to discover, through our imagination - or through private revelations - what life will be like after death, but rather to continue unceasingly, as a community as well as individuals, a movement of conversion. Only in this way will we be able, at the end of our earthly pilgrimage, to be reunited with all our brothers and sisters in God's eternal ‘today’.

Today we remember Bishop Boniface, martyr.

Armand Veilleux