Tuesday, June 6, 2017

LIFE AFTER DEATH


Homily for June 7th, 2017: Mark 12:18-27.

Jesus= critics present him with a hypothetical case about a woman who has been married to seven husbands. Jesus might have told his questioners that the case was too frivolous to merit comment. Instead Jesus shows himself, here as elsewhere, to be a model teacher by using his opponents= attempt to show him up as the occasion for serious teaching about the future life.

Which of the woman=s seven husbands will have her as his wife after death, Jesus= critics ask. Jesus= answer falls into two parts. First, he says that life beyond death is not a prolongation of life on earth. It is something completely new. That is the meaning of Jesus= statement that Athose who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.@ A fundamental purpose of marriage is the continuation of the human race through the procreation of children. Beyond death there is no need for more children to be born. 

The second part of Jesus= answer addresses his critics= contention that the idea of a future life is absurd. On the contrary, Jesus tells them, our own Scriptures clearly imply the resurrection when they represent Moses addressing the Lord as Athe God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.@ Those final words are crucial: all are alive to God, even those who have died. Before him, Jesus is saying, those long dead patriarchs remain alive. 

Jesus= way of interpreting Scripture may not be ours. But his teaching is not hard to grasp. His fundamental point is that our hope of life beyond death is not based on wishful thinking, but on the nature of God himself. He is not just a philosophical Afirst cause,@ an Aunmoved mover,@ or the Agreat architect of the universe.@ God is all those things, yet he is infinitely more.     

The God whom Jesus reveals is our loving heavenly Father, who enters into a personal relationship with us B a relationship of love. This love relationship cannot be terminated by death, any more than God=s relationship of love with his Son was ended by Jesus= death. I learned this very early, through my mother=s death when I was only six years old. A few days after my mother=s funeral, my father told me: AOur love for Mummy continues, and her love for us. We must continue to pray for her. She is with God. He is looking after her. Our prayers can help her.@ That made sense to me when I was only six. It still makes sense to me eight decades later. I pray for my dear mother by name in every Mass I celebrate. I encourage you to pray for your own departed loved ones at the prayer for the dead in the prayer of consecration.