Jerusalem Bible © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Company Inc.
Some Sadducees—those who say that there is no resurrection—approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’
Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’
Did you know?
Points of interest and Catholic lore
- The rule about a brother marrying a childless widow is known as the ‘Levirate Law’, specified in Deuteronomy 25:5–10. It was really designed to protect the woman who, as a childless widow, had no social status and no one to provide for her needs.
- The Sadducees largely lived in Jerusalem around the temple precinct. They came from a relatively small number of wealthy and influential families. The high priest and chief priests often came from Sadducee families. They often controlled the necessary temple trade.
- The Sadducees were a priestly caste of conservative Jews who followed the written law of the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible. Resurrection of the dead is not mentioned in these books, so they did not adhere to this belief. This is in contrast to the Pharisees, who also adhered to the oral law and the writings and therefore did believe in resurrection of the dead.
- November is the month when the Church remembers especially those who have died.
Exploring the Word
Now that Jesus has arrived in Jerusalem and his ministry is centred at the temple, he encounters the Sadducees, who dominate temple worship. The question posed by the Sadducees in this text was not asked to elicit his teaching on this point but rather in an attempt to ridicule Jesus and disconcert him. But Jesus turns the tide and gives two answers to their question. First, he points out that they have completely misunderstood what resurrection is. The transformation of life brought by death is incomprehensible to them because they are not open to the power of God. Second, he points out that even though Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have died, Moses is conscious that they must remain alive in a sense because Yahweh continues to be their God—a God of the living. Death is not the end of the story and Christian faith is marked by a joy and hope that ultimately resting in God will bring. This is the destiny of the human person.
- Explore the continuity between life as we know it now and life after death.
- How do the catechumens understand ‘life after death’?
Opportunities for group discussion and personal prayer
- How do you understand the idea of the resurrection of the dead at this point in your journey?
- What emotions arise when you consider your own death?
- While death is not an easy subject to talk about, you may like to share some memories of the death of a loved one. Celebrate the good memories of such people and the positive side of their lives. What was it that gave you solace at such times?
- If catechumens come from different cultures, you could ask them to speak of some of the rituals and beliefs associated with death or funerals in those cultures.
- Visit the graves for your loved ones at some stage during the month of November. Pray especially for friends and relatives who have passed away.
- Memorise and pray this prayer for the dead often this week, remembering your own loved ones:
Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
Sharing the tradition
A closer look at the Scripture of the day, to see how it makes more explicit God’s word to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ
The Creed that is recited at the Mass each week affirms that ‘we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’. Belief in the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings (CCC, §991) and this has always met with some degree of incomprehension and opposition (§996). While many generally accept that life continues after death in a spiritual fashion, the most difficult part of the concept is the resurrection of the body. Catholics believe that, ‘In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God,’ but through the power of God, at the end times, God ‘will definitively grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls’ (§997).
- Explore the section of the Catechism that deals with our understanding of Christian death and resurrection (§§988–1014).
- You could look at the funeral rite and note the signs of hope and celebration in that ritual. How does this help us understand death?
Symbols and images
Traditionally, black has been the colour associated with mourning, but since the Second Vatican Council, white vestments are worn at the celebration of a funeral. This is to emphasise the connection between the joy of the resurrection of Jesus and the hope of all believers that they, too, will share this resurrection.
Living the Word
Practical ideas for group leaders to employ in connecting Scripture and daily life, with suggestions for music and environment
- If it is possible, you could invite the catechumens to attend a funeral in your community or a neighbouring parish. Discuss the ways that the life of the person is celebrated and Christian hope emphasised.
- You could invite members of the group to light a candle or taper in memory of their loved ones. These could be placed around a cross. Pray for those who are suffering or facing death. Pray for each other as you journey towards eternal life. A suitable song could be ‘Lord, to whom shall we go’ (GA 189). Conclude with the simple prayer of blessing in the RCIA at §97A.