21 July OS 2018: Friday of the Tenth Week of St. Matthew; S.Ezechias (Ezekiel), Prophet; Ss. Symeon and John, Monks
In today’s Gospel, the Sadducees reveal their hypocrisy and spiritual bankruptcy by asking the Lord a non-question, in order to trip Him up:
The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.
Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also.
Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. – Matthew 22: 23-33
Usually it is the Pharisees and scribes, the rabbinical crowd, that we see twisting Scripture to advance a pathological ideology and keep power in their own hands, even if if means, ultimately, killing the God-Man. Here, however, it is the Sadducees who are playing with Scripture and making up a contrived scenario, while pretending to be serious, to justify their practical atheism. Strange to say, though they are the priestly party and have charge of the Temple worship, they do not believe in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection, or life after death. They are practical atheists who make their living by leading a religion (sound familiar?). Knowing that the Lord Jesus preaches the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life, they think they can make Him look silly. Instead, He turns the tables on them, and they look silly, which is what happens when integrity confronts hypocrisy.
For our part, we have to look at the poor old Sadducees and say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” The siren song of practical atheism – living as if this life were all there is – threatens daily to hypnotize all of us, and we can always dig up some quote from some supposed authority – Bishop So-and-So, “Elder” So-and-So, “Theologian” Dr. So-and-So, etc. – to parrot, or if we are really clever like the Sadducees, invent our own twisted reasoning based on Scripture or Tradition, in order to justify our lack of integrity.
How do we avoid being Sadducees and become – or stay – Christians? Let us undertake a short list:
- We have to pray earnestly, daily, for the Lord to reveal to us the extent of our own blindness and proud self-reliance. To motivate this prayer, I strongly recommend reading chapters two, three, and four of Unseen Warfare (if you do not have the book, you can find the text at http://www.stnicholasdc.org/files/Orthodoxy/Unseen-Warfare.pdf).
- We have to constantly read and re-read our recent trustworthy Orthodox writers to give us a grip on the kaleidoscopically fragmenting and re-forming churchy landscape out there. For example, we should periodically re-read St. Philaret’s Sorrowful Epistles (http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/sorrow.aspx and http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/sorrow2.aspx), and Archbishop Averky’s writings on the present church situation (for example http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/keepstep.aspx). What you will find here, instead of the Newspeak, obfuscation, coldness, and threats of the new Sadducees of ecclesiastical “officialness,” is the simplicity, clarity, and life-giving warmth of evangelical love. Take your pick.
- Remember death daily. Today or tomorrow you will face death and God’s judgment. So live with integrity today. Speak the truth, be not afraid. The Lord loves you and desires your salvation more than you do. But you have to be loyal, and you must not lie to yourself.
O Lord, the Truth and source of all truth, glory be to Thee! O Lord, give us the light and the strength to live in truth. Amen.