God is the God of the Living
As we are in the month of All Saints and All Souls, the Sunday readings become very eschatological—that is, referencing “the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.” We can see that by remembering the saints who live “the Church triumphant” in heaven, and, by remembering all the holy souls, the faithful departed, we begin the month of November, begging the questions, what happens in the end? and what comes after death?—eschatological questions. So appropriate, then, that in today’s gospel passage from St. Luke Jesus addresses a question about a woman and her husband and six brothers-in-law after they all had died and rose: “Whose wife will that woman be?” What happens after death?
This is another case of “God being too small.” First of all, the particular Sadducees questioning Jesus, the scholars say, did not even believe in the resurrection and, by asking such a trick question, were trying to make Jesus’ claim of the resurrection look ridiculous. But note how Jesus responds. Because he knows that God is not as small and limited as they imagine (God doesn’t run a heavenly saintsmingle.com), he immediately talks about no more need “to be given in marriage” at all, and “no more death.” God is the God of the living!
J.B. Phillips, in 1952, published his book entitled, YOUR GOD IS TOO SMALL. In it he speaks of the tendency to make God out as “Resident Policeman,” “Grand Old Man,” or perhaps, “Managing Director.” Each of these titles would appear to Jesus as, at the very least, lacking in God-given imagination, or probably just plain ignorant. There is the claim out there that when we die, “we will see God face-to-face.” So what WILL God be like? The image, of course, defies imagining. How do you picture “I AM WHO AM”? How do you paint or sculpture “Love Itself,” without painting love happening in human action or circumstance? How do you conceive of “Existence Itself?” No matter how we depict God on this side of heaven, we will always fall far short of the mark. In the meantime, we do have The Word Made Flesh who dwelt among us and who remains with us. We do have JESUS.
The best image and understanding of who God is, resides in the Mass we here celebrate. Here we remember Jesus’ own passing FOR US. Here it is we can commend our beloved loved ones who have passed to THE GOD OF THE LIVING. Without trying to tie God down somehow, we simply entrust those who have gone before us to The Good Shepherd and to LOVE ITSELF. I find this most consoling. Don’t you? But then there is the greater challenge, to take a deep breath and entrust ourselves to God, to God’s eternity, to God’s heaven.
Fear not, then, things eschatological! As the month of November dazzles us with its palate array of red, yellow, green, burnt orange, and gold colors, may it also be the month of our consolation and our hope in Jesus who speaks tenderly (and at times a bit sternly), of the great hereafter. We are on a march to the end of the liturgical year and to celebrate The Solemnity of Jesus Christ Our Lord and King! So, I say, enjoy the eschatologically fabulous month of November 2016!