November 10, 2019
XXXII Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
The Gospel passage offered by this Sunday’s Liturgy (Lk 20:27-38) is set in a different context compared to the last few Sundays.
Until now, if we have followed Jesus on His journey to Jerusalem, we see today Jesus after His entry into the Holy City. In chapter 20, in the context of the Temple, the evangelist presents various diatribes between Jesus and the Scribes, the Pharisees and, as in this case, the Sadducees. Discussions with Jesus are on different subjects which, read together, help us to have a more complete vision of today’s passage on the resurrection. It starts with discussing the authority of Jesus (2); Jesus goes back to speak of John the Baptist and his prophetic role (3-8); then follows the parable of the owner of the vineyard and of the murderous tenants (9-19), which refers to Jesus, His coming to Jerusalem and His destiny of death, despite being the greatest prophet of all; then follows the question about the tribute to Caesar (20-26), because it will be to the Romans that Jesus will be delivered for His execution; then follows the passage on the resurrection (27-40) followed by the question on the figure of David. The Messiah – says Jesus – will be “son of David,” but also “Lord of David” (41-44).
All these passages are important in themselves, certainly but, when read together, they present briefly the story of Jesus, His life, His mission and His destiny of death and resurrection. They are a synthesis of the whole Gospel: Jesus is anointed as Messiah by John the Baptist. The parable of the vineyard represents the ministry of proclaiming the Word of God, of the first prophets and finally of Jesus. He announces the Gospel in the cities of Galilee and finally, in Jerusalem, He begs the winegrowers to accept it, but they reject it, invoking the judgment in this way on themselves. It is handed over to Caesar’s men for execution, and on the third day, he rose again. After the resurrection, the disciples understand that Jesus is not only the son of David, the Messiah, but he is also the Lord of David (44).
In this context, we understand that the passage on the resurrection shows us in advance what the destiny of Jesus will be. Those speaking with Jesus in this discussion are Sadducees (Lk 20:27). Until now, Jesus has clashed above all with the Pharisees, and with them, the subject of disputes had a moral character, concerning the interpretation and observance of the Law. Dialogue with the Sadducees is not so much of a moral nature: the Sadducees were a group of the aristocracy that referred only to the authority of the Pentateuch and rejected all the oral tradition of the Pharisees and their disputes. They did not believe in the resurrection (Lk 20:27), so their question is designed to be a provocation and a trivialization of the subject, to affirm that the resurrection has no meaning and does not solve the drama of life. Not believing in the resurrection, they tell a story of death, which is also a story of pain, in which vanity is evident, the futility of human effort, all aimed at overcoming death.
In the answer to their provocation, Jesus says to believe in the resurrection first. And He says that believing in the resurrection is not the result of philosophical discourses, but arises from the simple observation of being children of God (Lk 20:36): “for they can die no more, because they are equal to the angels and, since they are children of the resurrection, they are children of God.”
So, believing in the resurrection means to trust, trust in a Father who is not only good, and therefore does not abandon His children, but is also capable of annihilating the enemy of life, which is death.
Jesus also says that there is another way of living. Faith in the resurrection gives the possibility of living a different life even now, in which the bond with God is the possibility of living free from the fear of death. Because death is that enemy capable of making life sad, like that of the woman spoken of by the Sadducees, a woman used to try to take away a little of power from death.
Here, Jesus seems to say, this is no longer necessary because whoever trusts in the Father remains alive, and can no longer die (Lk 20:36), he has no longer to live to guarantee his survival, but he can anticipate, even now, a life that knows not to die.
The connection with God is our resurrection.
And this will also be true for Jesus, now near the hour in which He will be put to death: Jesus conquers death through His bond with the Father, His obedience, His trust.
If the lack of trust leads man to seek for himself the way of life, and therefore, paradoxically, to distance himself from the Father and therefore to fall into death, trust in Him maintains in a bond that is forever, and that is a guarantee of life. All that is not related to God dies, that does not fit into a bond with Him, and that stops at nature, or the Law. It’s no coincidence that the Sadducees quote Moses, and therefore the Law.
But the Law is incapable of overcoming death and, as in the case of the women, it can only try to get around it, in the most awkward ways.
On the other hand, whoever entrusts his life to God, like Jesus on the cross, can no longer die.