The one word life has two meanings.
The first understanding of life is the present road we travel. A road that ends one day. We look, speak, and act in different manners, but we have in common the greatest of all gifts called life. This first life is lived within the walls and boundaries of space and time. If we ever feel restricted at certain times, like we’re being held back, that restriction is not the result of the 10 Commandments where God commands us what and what not to do. It’s not the result of Jesus commanding us to love enemies and pray for persecutors. In fact, if we do so, we experience more freedom.
If there are times when we feel restricted or held back, there is no connection to God telling us what choices to make. What to do and what not to do. The truth of God is what sets us free, which contradicts the present cultural mindset that religion today is somehow restrictive, and that it holds us back from being all we can be. Rather, our faith holds us back from the slavery of sin. The feeling of restriction, where it exists, results from this present meaning of life being lived within the boundaries of space and time, and nothing more.
This is what the Sadducees believe. That the word life has just one meaning. That life ends at death, so eat, drink, and be merry as much as humanly possible. We’ll still believe in God, which the Sadducees did. But they say that this is the one and only life that God created from the words “Let there be light.” If that’s the truth, then God’s light is not long-lasting. It’s like placing a 5-watt bulb placed into a streetlight 40 feet tall. There’s more darkness than light. And this is how the Sadducees approached life in the ancient time of Jesus.
This first and only meaning of life for them brings forth this idiotic question of “Whose wife will this woman be? Which of the 7 brothers will she be married to in the resurrection, even though we don’t believe in a resurrection, therefore, we’re just going to make light of God’s light?” Of all the insane questions in Scripture, and there’s a few of them, this one could be on top of the list. “Whose wife will she be?”
So, our primary understanding of this first meaning of life is that it will end. Even the Sadducees got that part correct.
The second meaning of the word life is better understood by their denial. The refusal of the Sadducees to accept from God why this first life is so important to us. We look at our families, friends, your children and grandchildren, the beauty of God’s creation and nature and say, “We don’t ever want this to end. If this ends at the end of the first meaning of life, at death, then God had a really bad plan.” The worst plan, I would say.
To say or believe there is no resurrection opens wide the door of this life to the option of slavery. Of living for oneself…because life is short and I need to get as much out of it as I can, no matter what the cost or who gets hurt along the way. “Get outta my way cause I’m doing whatever I want, commandments or no commandments, laws or no laws.” Is this freedom? Or is it slavery to the senses?
What’s amazing about the Sadducees is that they were probably a group of decent human beings, despite testing the Master Teacher. Even though they believed the resurrection – the second meaning of life – not possible, that resurrection was not part of God’s saving plan, they did not run wild with their lives. They were religious-minded folks. They were God-fearing men. But they restricted themselves from accepting the truth that God’s plan for us goes far beyond the restrictions of this life. They couldn’t compete for the gold medal, because they didn’t believe there was a gold medal. They believed in a bronze medal eventually covered in six feet of dirt. They believed that was the best God could do. Or would do.
The second meaning of life, based on the question “Whose wife will she be?”, Jesus gladly answers for us. The daily question for us in our Catholic faith is, “Do we live this first meaning of life according to the Sadducees insane question, or, do we live according to the Lord’s answer to them?”
What is his answer? And is it satisfying enough for us to embrace the joys of the resurrection? Whose wife will she be is answered first, that marriage is not the defining relationship in heaven. Marriage is not the standard bearer of being with God in the resurrection. I’m sorry if that breaks your heart, but it shouldn’t. The dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. There are no Sacraments in heaven. Which is why Sacraments are for the living in this first meaning of life. Sacraments, including Matrimony, prepare us for the second meaning of life, being eternal.
Instead of “Whose wife will this woman be?” Jesus answers the resurrection non-believers in a way that opens the door to what God has prepared for those who love him; “They can no longer die; they are children of God; they are the ones who will rise.”
My dear friends, may we ever trust the words of Jesus in all he teaches, but most especially with regard to the second meaning of the word “Life.” It gives ultimate purpose and meaning to this first life, where restriction of space and time is real. This all leads to the second meaning of life, where freedom in Christ is eternal, even beyond the goodness of Holy Matrimony.