A priest died and went to the Pearly Gates. With his clerical collar and colorful robes he’s waiting in line and just ahead of him there is a guy dressed in sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and jeans. Saint Peter addresses this guy, “Who are you? The guy replies, “I’m Joe Green, New York City taxi-driver.” Saint Peter consults his list, smiles and says to the taxi-driver, “Take this silken robe and golden staff, and enter.” Next one is the priest, pastor of Saint Mary’s for the last forty-three years.” Saint Peter consults his list and says, “Take this cotton robe and wooden staff and enter into Heaven.” Then the pastor said, “that man was a taxi-driver, and you gave him a silken robe and golden staff. But I get a cotton robe and wooden staff? How can this be?” Peter said. “Up here, we go by results,” “When you preached, people slept when he drove, people prayed.”
Today’s Gospel shows us how Jesus cleverly escaped from a doctrinal trap set for him and explained the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead which was supported by the Pharisees but denied by the Sadducees. Jesus also explains that heavenly life with God in glory is totally different from earthly life, and that there is no marriage in heaven in the earthly sense.
The Pharisees were an entirely religious group with no political ambitions and were satisfied with any government which gave them religious freedom. They believed in, and hoped for, the coming of the Messiah. They believed also in the resurrection of the dead, in angels, in spirits and in fate, in other words a man’s life was planned and well-organized by God.
The Sadducees founded a party of wealth, power and privilege, which controlled the Temple worship. Although few in number, the Sadducees were the Jewish governing class, and they supported Roman rule. Nearly all priests were Sadducees. The Sadducees believed in unrestricted free-will and not in fate or Divine Providence. They assumed that we control our own destinies through our personal actions. They rejected the idea of the resurrection, because it was not found in the Torah. Nor did they believe in the coming of the Messiah.
Jesus had reached Jerusalem for his final Passover feast. He wept over Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple and started teaching there. As part of a well-planned plot to trap Jesus, the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees approached him with two controversial questions: i) “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things and who is it who gave you this authority?” and ii) “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
Learning that Jesus had cleverly escaped from the first two traps, the Sadducees asked a question concerning the marital state after the resurrection.
Jesus brings a sharp distinction between “this age” (our earthly life) and “that age” (life after death). He makes it clear that the resurrection is not simply a continuation of earthly life. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, our belief in the resurrection is based upon a faith-relationship with God as Creator. The whole of Christian theology is based on the belief in our resurrection and everlasting life of reward or punishment.
We need to live as people of the Resurrection. This means that we are not to lie buried in the tomb of our sins and evil habits. Instead, we are to live joyful and peaceful lives, constantly experiencing the real Presence of the Risen Lord. The salutary thought of our own resurrection and eternal glory, or eternal punishment, should inspire us to honor our bodies, keeping them holy, pure and free from evil habits, and to respect those with whom we come in contact, rendering them loving and humble service.
We need to offer living worship to a living God. If our God is the God of the living, our worship of this living God also has to be alive. That means our participation in prayers and songs during the Holy Mass should be active and our behavior in Church reverent, as we offer our lives and all our activities to our living God on the altar with repentant and grateful hearts.