Ladies and Gentlemen! I think that most of us have had a similar experience. We may have even tried it ourselves when we were afraid or embarrassed to admit that we had a problem and in order to get advise we presented it as somebody’s else problem. Something similar happened in today’s Gospel. The Sadducees who spoke to Jesus about the Resurrection of the dead presented a family story. A woman and her seven successive husbands led them to a conclusion that the life after death is impossible because it is going to be a big mess. They were imagining a big fight in heaven between the seven brothers trying to get the woman they all married. In this homily I would like to focus on their real, life problem rather than getting into a theological dispute about life after death. I am going to do that because their real problem was an obstacle preventing them from embracing the faith.
To cut the long story short their problem was selfishness. They understood life and all the relations they had, including the relation with God, as something belonging to them, something they owned and had right to, something they could control and manipulate. That’s why their problem wasn’t about whether the life after death was real or not but because they were selfish, focused on themselves they weren’t able to accept that the people they “owned” on earth wouldn’t be theirs in heaven in the same way like on earth.
Believe me that their problem wasn’t an ancient problem that disappeared with the extinction of the Sadducees. The problem is still alive and doing well nowadays. I don’t mean owning people like slaves in the old days because it wasn’t the owning we see in the Sadducees either. What I mean is a situation when a person who loves another person believes that now he has got the right to the person he or she loves. A man for example falls I love with a married woman and he is firmly convinced that he has the right to break her marriage. Let’s take another example a parent believes that his or her love for the children makes it OK to control the life of an adult child. Or when a boy demands sex from his girlfriend because he loves her. It is thinking: “I love you and you are mine.” Do you know what the problem is here? Only God can say that. If we say that we put ourselves in the place of God and it is sick.
Or let’s look at another case. Somebody may be loved by another person like a child by a parent, a girl by her boyfriend, a husband by his wife and the child, the girl or the husband think that the love of the other is a way to “own” the person. They start controlling and manipulating the people who love them.
These cases don’t exhaust all situations that can be encountered in daily life but they show a similar problem: selfishness. Because if we say that we love somebody it should mean that we care for the good of the person, including his or her eternal good. The genuine love I have for another will never be a chain I use to keep the person with me but it should be my help, my desire to assist the person in his or her growth to become a saint. As Christians we believe that our love for others is the way to bring people to God not to us.
We don’t have Sadducees as an organization any more, but as I said before, their thinking is doing well still. Just think about a man who wants to sleep with a woman. If she is concerned about God the man will do all he can to persuade her that God doesn’t exist, or, what is more common, that God doesn’t bother about that. This thinking isn’t about who God is and what God wants but it is about using God to get what I want. That’s what happened to the Sadducees who came to Jesus in the Gospel. Jesus didn’t get into a big discussion about the life after death but his point was: “The life after death does exist but you need to grow out of your selfishness and stop making up theories to justify your behavior.”
To finish this homily I would like to go back to our first reading. I wish the lectionary gave us the whole story. The reading finishes with the death of the fourth brother but I would like to encourage you to read the whole story from the 2 Maccabees chapter 7. After six of her sons were murdered she spoke to her youngest son and she reminded him all her love for him, all her care for him since he was a baby in order to encourage and support him to remain faithful to God and stay firm in the face of difficulty. Her love for her son is an example of how we should love others. Our love for others, like her love for her son, should support those we love in their love and commitment for God.