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Bible Reflections View Comments

Use a Little Imagination!
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, November 10, 2013
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You may have encountered the term “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” perhaps in a news story about religious skeptics, or on a talk show, or in an online forum. Originally it was conceived by a college student as an objection to the teaching of creationism. It’s been adopted by a much wider group of people as a way of ridiculing belief in an omnipotent but invisible God.

In today’s Gospel, a group of Sadducees approaches Jesus with a question that, to their minds, shows the absurdity of the concept of an afterlife. Will the woman married to seven brothers belong to one, none, or all of them after death?

At the time of Jesus, many people still believed that the only chance people had of living on after death was through children and grandchildren who would carry on their name and bloodline. If a woman’s husband died and left her childless, his brother was expected to marry her and give her children.

Jesus cuts through the knotty puzzle set by his opponents and says, “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.” He says something important here not only about the afterlife but also about marriage and children. Other people are not a way to attain fame, fortune, or immortality. The problem with the question is a failure of imagination. Metaphors can’t be taken to absurd conclusions.

Today’s Scripture readings show us what really matters in life—and in death. Whether it’s a simple belief in eternal punishment or eternal reward or a more imaginative musing on what eternal life in the presence of God will be like, we have a deep sense that we’re more than just bodies that will die and decay.

Because we have a deeply sacramental sensibility, however, we believe that the things of this earth can in fact tell us something about the presence of God. And so we believe that the significant relationships in our lives continue after death, even if we don’t know exactly how that’s possible. We know that images and metaphors will never be exact.

People of faith have an immense capacity to enter into the mystery of things they can’t entirely understand or explain. Those who scoff at the notion of belief, who argue against the existence of God, miss the fact that the center of our relationship with God is not a matter of intellectual proofs or a series of required tests. Our relationship with God calls forth a love that can transform our lives.

The love of God calls us to live in the here-and-now, but also to hold fast to larger truths that make our present lives meaningful. We believe that there are principles worth dying for, ideals that are greater than life itself. In the reading from the Book of Maccabees, the belief in an afterlife so eloquently professed by the mother and her sons gives a nobility to their martyrdom and a purpose to their witness.

We see this kind of faith in something more in the love of Jesus that took him to the cross. We believe love led Jesus to give his life for us, teaching us how to live, how to love, how to die, and how to rise to new life. God is love, and love is stronger than death. If we live our lives and love others with this in mind, we will have here on earth a foretaste of what eternity in God’s presence will be.


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Lazarus: Lazarus, the friend of Jesus, the brother of Martha and Mary, was the one of whom the Jews said, "See how much he loved him." In their sight Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. 
<p>Legends abound about the life of Lazarus after the death and resurrection of Jesus. He is supposed to have left a written account of what he saw in the next world before he was called back to life. Some say he followed Peter into Syria. Another story is that despite being put into a leaking boat by the Jews at Jaffa, he, his sisters and others landed safely in Cyprus. There he died peacefully after serving as bishop for 30 years. </p><p>A church was built in his honor in Constantinople and some of his reputed relics were transferred there in 890. A Western legend has the oarless boat arriving in Gaul. There he was bishop of Marseilles, was martyred after making a number of converts and was buried in a cave. His relics were transferred to the new cathedral in Autun in 1146. </p><p>It is certain there was early devotion to the saint. Around the year 390, the pilgrim lady Etheria talks of the procession that took place on the Saturday before Palm Sunday at the tomb where Lazarus had been raised from the dead. In the West, Passion Sunday was called <i>Dominica de Lazaro</i>, and Augustine tells us that in Africa the Gospel of the raising of Lazarus was read at the office of Palm Sunday.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in His arms and heart.


 
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