Tobit 3: 1-11a,16-17a;
Ps 25: 2-3, 4-5ab, 6, 7bc, 8-9;
Mk 12: 18-27
HE IS NOT GOD OF THE DEAD BUT OF THE LIVING
Our readings speak of life and the afterlife. We are reminded that life on earth is not always easy and the life we have after this life is much different than we expect. In the passage read yesterday, it was related to how Tobit develops cataracts and can not see. He experiences other trials. As a result of all the hardships he is enduring, he prays that God will allow him to die.
Like some of the holy ones and prophets before, the request to leave this life of misery is lifted up (Moses [Numbers 11: 15]; Elijah [1 Kings 9: 14]; Jonah [4: 3, 8]; and Job [7: 15]). At the same time, a fellow Israelite, Sarah, prays a similar prayer. She has been married seven times, and each time before she is able to consummate the marriage, her husband dies. She thinks about ending her own life by hanging herself.
Yet, she realizes that suicide will only make it harder on her father Raguel (meaning “Friend of God”). Thus, she prays that God will take her life. God responds to both people as they lift up their prayers to God. God sends Raphael (a name which literally means “God’s healing”) to them.
In the Gospel, Jesus is questioned by the Sadducees (who do not believe in life after death). They present a hypothetical question dealing with the Levirate Law (Latin levir - “brother-in-law”) which is based on the passage in the Torah (Pentateuch) stating that a woman whose husband dies before giving birth to an heir, must marry her deceased husband’s brother in order to give the dead brother an heir (Deuteronomy 25: 6).
The Sadducees want to know “in heaven” whose wife she will be if she marries seven brothers (similar to the situation of Sarah in today’s First Reading). The whole purpose of Sadducees’ question is to show how the concept of the afterlife is ridiculous in their eyes. Jesus not only refutes their question but refocuses the attention upon the more important issue: Who God is. Using an older scripture passage (one found in the book of Exodus [3: 6]), Jesus says that in the afterlife relationships will be different. The one and only relationship that counts then (and even now) is the relationship with the Living God – the God Who was, Who is, and Who is to come.
Taking the cue from the Gospel, we need to focus, as Jesus directs, on the relationship one has with the Living God. God is truly the God of the Living. God is the Giver of earthly life. God is also the One Who takes away life – or, better put, decides when an individual is to transition from this life to the next life. And God is the One Who gives life in the next world. God is also the source of strength during the journey of life right now towards the life that will be.
What has seen me through the hard and trying times during my earthly journey is focusing on the God of the living. If I had not been able to focus on my relationship with the Lord Jesus and all the promises God has made, I would have ended my life. There were times when I prayed to God, as did Tobit and Sarah, and asked the Lord Jesus to take me away from my miseries. I had even contemplated suicide, as had other members of my family had actually attempted. Yet, when I looked at Who God is, I realized that I must bless and praise God. God has a plan for my life. God is to be praised in my living my life, even in the midst of the trials and tribulations. God, the Living God, will transition me from this life to the next life when the Lord Jesus determines, not when I do. God wants me and everyone else to have life and life to the full (John 10: 10).
We must be able to lift our eyes and focus on the Living God and praise the Lord Jesus for what God is doing in providing life for us now and in the future. The only fitting response we can give to God as we journey through our heavily burdened life is that of Sarah in today’s First Reading:
“Blessed are You, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is Your holy and honourable name. Blessed are You in all Your works forever!"