The Resurrection - They are like Angels

Homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Have you ever been asked a question just to test how you will respond or to provoke a reaction? Have you ever been asked a question and you know the questioner is not really serious but is just testing to see how you will react? It is this silly game that the Sadducees play with Jesus in today’s Gospel (Luke 29:27-38). They proposed a hypothetical situation which was most unlikely ever to occur. If a man’s brother died without a child, the brother should marry the widow according to Jewish Law (Deut 25:5-10) so that his brother would have offspring. This continued with seven brothers marrying the woman and each dying without a child. Then comes the question, “at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be?” (Luke 20:33) It seemed obvious that the woman could not be the wife of all seven men in the next life so the Sadducees, who did not believe in the Resurrection, hoped to trap Jesus into somehow saying that there is no Resurrection. Instead of trapping Jesus, Jesus uses the question to give his clearest teaching on the Resurrection.

Jesus says, “They can no longer die, for they are like angels…” (Luke 20:36) There is a radical difference between our earthly body and our body in the next life. The best way to think about our heavenly body is that we will be “like angels.” We can see something of this difference when Jesus rose from the dead. People did not recognize Jesus after his resurrection. Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener and even asked him about finding the body of Jesus (John 20:14-15). She did not recognize him until he spoke. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus until the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:13-35). Not only did Jesus look different after his resurrection but he could pass through walls and doors. On Easter Sunday evening the disciples were gathered together with the doors closed but Jesus came among them (John 20:19). Yet the evangelists also make it clear that Jesus did have a body; he needed to eat (Luke 24:41-42; Acts 10:41), and he showed them the wounds in his hands and feet (Luke 24:39). Jesus’ body after the resurrection was transformed.

Jesus says, “They can no longer die, for they are like angels…” (Luke 20:36) There is a radical difference between this life and the next life. We cannot think about the next life in terms of this life. That radical transformation affects everything about us in the next life, even marriage. As we think about marriage in this life we know that marriage is to be a blessing for the spouses; they are to help sanctify each other. Marriage is a gift from God for the good of the spouses, but also for the procreation of children. Sometimes our contemporary culture forgets that marriage is not just for the spouses but is also God’s plan for the continuation of the human race. Our Catholic teaching tells us that children are the crowning glory of marriage (Gaudium et Spes §48), the supreme gift of marriage, and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves (Gaudium et Spes §50). Because we all die, the continuation of the human race is dependent on marriage begetting children, yet in today’s Gospel Jesus teaches that there is a radical difference between this life and the next. In the next life there is no death so there is no begetting of children and therefore no marriage. Jesus said,

“The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.” (Luke 20:34-36)

Marriage is for this life only, there is no marriage in the next life, so the Sadducees’ question is irrelevant. The Sadducees had asked Jesus a hypothetical question about a situation that would be most unlikely to ever occur but it elicited from Jesus his clearest teaching on the resurrection.

The Sadducees got themselves into this mess because they relied on only part of the Jewish teaching that suited them. The first reading, which is from one of the seven extra books that Catholic Bibles have in the Old Testament and not included as inspired in Protestant Old Testaments, gives us a more complete picture because it teaches the Resurrection of the dead. Seven brothers were prepared to die rather than break the Jewish law by eating pork. The second brother said, “you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” (2 Macc 7:9) The third brother said he had received his limbs from heaven and hoped to receive them again from God (2 Macc 7:11). The fourth brother also said he hoped to be raised up again. It was the Thessalonians’ anxiety about the next life that partly drove St. Paul to write his letters to them, part of which we read today as our second reading. They were concerned about what would happen to those who died before the Second Coming of Jesus and St. Paul reassured them.

The Sadducees were in a mess because they thought of the next life in terms of this life, a mistake still made today, but Jesus teaches there is a radical transformation in the next life which will affect everything, even marriage. Belief in the resurrection gave strength and hope to seven Jewish brothers about to be martyred. We too are reassured by Jesus’ teaching and look forward to eternity with God, radically transformed. May we live lives worthy of God’s promise.

“The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.” (Luke 20:34-36)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Thirty-Second Sunday Year C

Our Faith helps us to endure suffering

Related Homilies: The Resurrection - the glorious future awaiting us

Belief in the Resurrection (excerpt of funeral homily)