Don’t be Absurd (Thirty-second Ordinary)

Some Sadducees came up to Jesus. This is the Jewish party that denies any chances of resurrection. Jesus said, “Even Moses exclaimed about resurrection at the burning bush, saying, ‘God: God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob!’ God isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living. To God all are alive”. (Luke 20: 37 – 38)

Growing up, I recall hearing a recording of one of comedian George Carlin’s routines. In it, Carlin is a Catholic grade-school kid, the smart-aleck, troublemaking type. He poses a question to one of the nuns: “Sister, if God is all powerful, can he make a rock so big that even he can’t lift it?” Of course, the question has no answer because it is a logical paradox. It is called an argument, reductio ad absurdum or “reduced to the absurd” because it creates an absurd outcome in order to challenge a premise.

This is the kind of question posed by the Sadducees to Jesus in today’s gospel. A woman supposedly marries and is widowed by a succession of seven brothers (how likely is that!) and then has to face them all in the afterlife. The Sadducees were not posing this question out of a genuine concern for the Law, much less out of compassion for the woman in question. They were looking for a clever way to trip Jesus up, to trap him into saying something that could be construed as an attack on Jewish law or custom. They were fishing, and Jesus saw right through them.

It is not sinful to question, or even to have doubt. The issue is, are our questions motivated by a sincere personal struggle with the “hard questions” that faith poses or perhaps out of some lesser motive, such as giving ourselves an easy out from the radical imperatives of the gospel? It does us no good to fake it, because Jesus sees through all kinds of pretence.

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