This reflection is based on Luke 20:27-38.
As always, a trick question from his enemies elicits not only a clever answer from Jesus, but also an argument for the afterlife. The Sadducees present the Lord with an unlikely but not implausible scenario: If a woman widowed seven times ends up marrying seven brothers, whose wife will she be at the resurrection?
You see, the Sadducees do not believe in the resurrection and want to show how it will lead to chaos. Our Lord’s answer is simple: There won’t be any fighting over her because in heaven we will transcend our roles and possessions. We will be “like angels”–not pure spirit since we will rise with our earthly bodies, but immortal: We can no longer die.
But not only does our Lord manage to escape the Sadducees’ trap, but he also takes the opportunity to cite Scripture to explain why he believes in the resurrection. For when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, God did not say, “I was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Rather, he said, “I AM.” In fact, when Moses asked God for His name in case the Israelites and Egyptians asked him who sent him, God said, “Tell them I AM sent you.”
Then Jesus tells the Sadducees what I think is the most important line in today’s Gospel: “He is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
That for me is the most important message today: “To God, all of us are alive.” As long as God thinks of us and gazes upon us, we exist. Our very being depends on God intending us to be.
I am reminded of an image that our novice master borrowed from an Eastern mystic when I was a young novice in prayer: God is like a dancer, and creation–including each one of us–is His dance. Like the dance to the dancer, we are intimately linked to God. The dance exists as long as God continues to dance. The moment God stops dancing, we cease to exist.”
Think about that for a moment–how radically dependent our lives are on God’s desire for us to live. As long as He wills that we live, we do. Indeed as St. Paul writes, “in Him, we live, and move, and have our being.”
Biblical scholars tell us that the name Yahweh gives to Moses–“I AM”–doesn’t so much mean that “I exist” but “I am present”–or “I will be present.” It is this presence of God to creation that enables creation to exist. It is this presence of God to us that causes us to live. He is always present to us even if we don’t always sense His presence, even if we forget His presence. There is a saying in mindfulness that always lifts my spirit: “For as long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong.”
To that we can add: “Because for as long as you are breathing, God is dancing you.”
Take some time out today and just pay attention to your breathing. And imagine the divine dance that makes every breath possible.
Here is a song that may inspire you. It’s appropriately called “I Am” and tells the story of how a girl calls God many different names depending on her experience of him: Elbow Healer, Superhero, Best Friend, Secret Keeper… But through it all, one name remains: I Am.