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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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Conversion of St. Paul: Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, like the strength of a boxer swinging wildly. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “...entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered,” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior. 
<p>One sentence determined his theology: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). Jesus was mysteriously identified with people—the loving group of people Saul had been running down like criminals. Jesus, he saw, was the mysterious fulfillment of all he had been blindly pursuing. </p><p>From then on, his only work was to “present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29). “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and [with] much conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5a). </p><p>Paul’s life became a tireless proclaiming and living out of the message of the cross: Christians die baptismally to sin and are buried with Christ; they are dead to all that is sinful and unredeemed in the world. They are made into a new creation, already sharing Christ’s victory and someday to rise from the dead like him. Through this risen Christ the Father pours out the Spirit on them, making them completely new. </p><p>So Paul’s great message to the world was: You are saved entirely by God, not by anything you can do. Saving faith is the gift of total, free, personal and loving commitment to Christ, a commitment that then bears fruit in more “works” than the Law could ever contemplate.</p> American Catholic Blog If you’re confused as to why God would die for you, you either need to rethink your vision of His mercy or of your own worth.

 
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