Jargon versus Conversion
Eric Hollas, OSB
Sermon delivered at Saint John’s Abbey
23 November 2013
Text: Luke 20: 27-40
There’s no denying that belief in the resurrection mattered as a bone of contention among Jews in the time of Jesus. At the very least, it divided Sadducees from Pharisees. And Jesus, and after him Saint Paul and the early Christian community, came down squarely on the side of the Pharisees. In fact, the kingdom to come was at the core of the teaching of Jesus. So there’s no surprise that it has found expression both in the prayer and in the credal statements of Christians ever since.
But there’s something else going on in today’s gospel, and it has to do with inner conversion. When the Sadducees ask whether Jewish marriage law will apply in heaven, I can just picture in my mind Jesus rolling his eyes. He knows what’s behind their question, and it’s just another pretext for an argument. It’s just another instance in which they test him. It’s yet another case in which people clothe themselves in the jargon of religious language, but deftly sidestep the issue of inner conversion. Like the image of the whitened sepulchre that Jesus uses elsewhere, they have the appearance of being religious, but the sacred has yet to penetrate into the core of their being.
Jesus didn’t take the bait, and he refused to speculate on the rules that would apply to people in heaven. Rather, he simply offered that the kingdom of God will transform our lives. But he’d be quick to add one thing that was consistent throughout his teaching. Yes, we will be transformed in the kingdom of heaven; but that transformation begins now. That transformation takes place deep within us, and it shows itself in our love and respect for one another, here and now. That is the one thing that definitely begins in this world and continues into the next.