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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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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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