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THE ETERNAL NOW

Homily for Wed of the 9th Week in Ordinary Time, 5 June 2024, Mk 12,18-27

The question raised in today’s Gospel reminds me of the story of a woman named Sarah in the Old Testament. No, I am not talking about Sarah, the wife of Abraham, but about the Sarah who became a daughter-in-law of Tobit. You find her story in the Old Testament’s deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, chapters 7 & 8. She’s the daughter of Raguel who had been previously given in marriage to seven brothers in a row, who all died childless one after the other after marrying her, because she was under the spell of a demon. The demon killed all the men she had married before they could even go to bed with her.

According to law of Moses, if a woman’s husband dies childless, and her husband has other brothers who are not yet married, the brother-in-law who was next in line was required to marry his deceased brother’s wife in order to continue his brother’s family line. If that brother also dies childless, then the next one was obliged to do the same thing. But the storyteller tells us all the seven brothers whom she had married died, leaving her childless, until she finally meets the son of Tobit.

Of course, in the Gospel, the Sadducees simply end the story with the death of the seventh husband. They omit the part about Sarah finally getting liberated from enslavement by the demon when she met the Son of Tobit who would become her 8th husband. How with the help of the angel Raphael, the curse on Sarah is finally ended and Tobiah and Sarah live happily ever after. Ignoring the happy ending, the Sadducees instead abruptly wrap up the story by posing a ridiculous question, precisely with the intention of ridiculing Jesus. They probably thought that Jesus upheld the doctrine of the resurrection in exactly the same way the Pharisees did; they were mistaken. Jesus’ answer contradicts both the Pharisees and the Sadducees in their understanding of the resurrection—namely, that the life of those to be raised from the dead was essentially a mere continuation of their earthly life. That’s what seems to be presupposed by the question, “Whose wife will she be at the resurrection, if she had married seven husbands?”

Here’s how Jesus replies to them: “you are greatly misled because because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God.” The question “whose wife will she be” will be totally irrelevant because people will “no longer marry nor be given in marriage”, and that they will be “like angels in heaven”.

I have a feeling that St. Paul, who was a Pharisee before his conversion also thought of the resurrection as a mere resuscitation to the same physical and material existence. Until of course his conversion experience happened. He would expound on the meaning of the resurrection in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, already on the basis of his personal encounter with the Resurrected Jesus. He says, “What is sown corruptible will be raised incorruptible. What is sown a natural body is raised a spiritual body.” The model for the resurrected humanity will no longer be the old Adam or the earthly man, but rather the New Adam of the Heavenly Man. Namely, Jesus Christ—the image of the invisible God whom the Jews called Yahweh, meaning I AM, the Eternal Now. By then, the curse of death would have been put to an end the way it was for Sarah, death will have no power over us anymore. By then, we will no longer be bounded by time or space, that we will share in the life of God who has no here or there, no past and no future, just now. For he is a God of the living, the God of the eternal NOW.

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