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Colleen DulleNovember 22, 2023
Photo from Unsplash.

A Reflection for the Saturday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

The children of this age marry and remarry;
but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age
and to the resurrection of the dead
neither marry nor are given in marriage.

I’ve never quite known what to make of this Gospel passage: The Sadducees ask Jesus about a woman who had no children and whose husband died. Following a custom laid out by Moses, the husband’s brother marries the woman. Likewise, he dies childless. The woman ends up being married to seven brothers, and all of them die. The Sadducees want to know: At the resurrection, whose wife will she be?

The Sadducees are laying out a trap for Jesus: They don’t believe in a resurrection of the dead, so they want to make it look ridiculous. But Jesus’ answer, although it successfully rebuts the Sadducees, isn’t exactly comforting to me as a married person: At the resurrection, he says, people “neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

We encounter God in our relationships, but the union with God at the resurrection is immediate—rather than a glimpse of God, it’s a full and clear vision.

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know what to do with this, at least in terms of what it says about marriage. But there is a bigger point here that does make sense to me: Underlying what Jesus says is the truth that our relationships with God are greater than any of our relationships with one another, even the ones we hold dearest. We encounter God in those relationships, but the union with God at the resurrection is immediate—rather than a glimpse of God, it’s a full and clear vision.

Jesus is turning the Sadducees’ focus away from a legalistic, temporal understanding of faith and toward what is eternal. The exchange reminds me of some of the resistance to Pope Francis that I’ve covered while reporting on the Vatican for America: People submit dubia, yes or no questions that at times have been designed to “trap” the pope, but rather than responding with a single word, Francis responds in paragraphs, turning the focus to God’s love and mercy, which add a blessed complexity to strict, legalistic interpretations of church teaching. Pope Francis acknowledges that many of us fall short of the ideals the church lays out and teaches that there is still room for each of us to encounter God’s grace, even when we live in complex situations or moral “gray areas.”

Whose husband is the woman? It doesn’t matter: What matters is that she and each of them are raised from the dead, living in union with God.

More: Scripture

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