Friday of the Tenth Week of St. Matthew
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
More often than not it is the Pharisees 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, in order to deny the reality of life after death and thereby 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 a comfortable living by being in charge of a religious institution (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 a quote from some supposed authority – Bishop So-and-So, Elder So-and-So, Theologian Dr. So-and-So, etc. – to back up our own twisted reasoning based on some misunderstood fragment of 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:
Pray earnestly, daily, for the Lord to reveal to us the extent of our own blindness and proud self-reliance. To motivate this prayer, read chapters two, three, and four of Unseen Warfare, an essential volume for your Orthodox bookshelf which you should acquire if you do not own it already. The early chapters on the absolute necessity of giving up self-reliance and placing all of our hope in God could be re-read with profit frequently throughout the year.
Read and re-read our recent trustworthy Orthodox writers in order to make sense of the kaleidoscopically fragmenting and re-forming ecclesiastical landscape. 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.
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.