Tue, 6 June 2017
(Tb.3:1-11,16-17; Ps.25:1-9; Mk.12:18-27)
“He is the God of the living, not of the dead.”
Rich readings. First of all, we see the striking similarity between the story woven by the Sadducees to thwart the wisdom of the Lord and the situation in which Sarah finds herself. In both cases, seven – the number representing fullness – husbands have died. In one the wife has also died; in the other, she wishes for death. And in both there have been no children, no fruit, no new life. Death in its fullness is throughout today’s readings, as even Tobit begs to die.
In addition to death, our readings are also clearly about prayer. In our first, Tobit and Sarah pour out their hearts in tears before the Lord whom they so love. Our psalm is the lifting up of the soul in prayer to God by the humble. And the Sadducees questioning of Jesus is also a kind of prayer, though one which comes from a hardness of heart, inauthentic and insincere.
And what has the Lord to say of death; what is the answer to these prayers? We often hear that God always answers our prayers, though often in ways we do not expect. Such is the case here. Neither Tobit nor Sarah will get the death they seem to seek; instead, Raphael – the angel whose name means “to heal” – “was sent to heal them both.” And the Sadducees, “who hold there is no resurrection,” will not find confirmation for their creed which clings to death as the end of all. Yet all will be answered according to the disposition of their hearts, and in this sense all receive exactly what they seek, for the Lord looks upon the heart. The prayer of Tobit and Sarah is not really to die but “to be delivered from such anguish” – it is healing they seek, and this they shall find. And the Sadducees, who do not really seek an answer of the Lord regarding resurrection, whose hearts are closed to the life-giving power of God, will likely not hear the words of Christ… and so by their ignorance come to adhere more firmly to their creed of death.
We do get what we ask for. As our psalm tells us, the Lord “teaches the humble His way.” The compassion and kindness which are synonymous with God are known to those who trust in Him; but “those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith,” for the compassion of our Lord finds no place in them. For them there is no hope, no life, no resurrection from the dead… and they shall not know how God answers prayer.
Brothers and sisters, let us pour out our hearts before our Lord and God, and know His healing grace, and find His everlasting life.
O LORD, though we wish to die
when amidst the persecutions of this race,
let us be resurrected with you.
YHWH, hear our prayer and save us from the insults of your enemies. Let us not be overcome by darkness or by sin. You are our God and you answer all our pleas; let us not be put to shame.
You look upon the heart, O LORD, and listen to our true desires. Every prayer you cannot help but answer according to the faith by which it is offered. You give us what we ask for, not in our words but by our intention. And so, you thwart the insincere prayer of the wicked, but are merciful to those who are humble before you.
And you protect us, LORD, from every attack of the devil. Those who break faith heedlessly shall not triumph over your righteous ones; they shall be turned back by the power of your Word. For in life alone you dwell – in you there is no death – and so those whose hearts desire life in your presence shall rejoice… even as those who do not believe fall helplessly into the earth.