There was a Rabbi who lived in a small Russian town. One day he was on his way to the synagogue. Along the way he encountered a policeman who did not like Jews and who was in a particularly bad mood that day. So, he yelled out to him “Hey Rabbi, where do you think you’re going?” The Rabbi answered, “I don’t know.” Well that enraged the policeman and he replied, “What do you mean you don’t know where you are going? You cross this road in the same place at the same time everyday so don’t try telling me you don’t know where you are going. Are you trying to make a fool out of me? Let me teach you a lesson.”
So, the policemen forcibly marched the Rabbi back across the road, went down to the police station and had him thrown into jail. The Rabbi said, “You see Officer I was quite right when I told you that I did not know where I was going.”
Where are we going? That is a question our readings pose to us today where they speak to us about the resurrection. In the First Reading we listen to how seven brothers whose belief in the resurrection was so strong they were prepared to die painful deaths before they would give up any of their beliefs. Belief in the resurrection gave their lives purpose and direction. They were able to face their deaths with courage because they knew where they were going.
In contrast the Sadducees in the Gospel had no belief in the resurrection. The only books in the bible they believed in were the first five books of the bible and they maintained that there was no belief in the resurrection because there was no mention of it in there. In their question to Jesus they were not concerned about whose wife the woman was. They are trying to prove to Jesus how illogical life after death is. In this passage we learn all about what they stood against and nothing about what they stood for. It seemed that their lives lacked purpose and direction as a result.
St Paul in his writings said, ‘if it were not for the resurrection all our preaching would be in vain.’ What are our beliefs? What are our hopes? Do we believe in the resurrection? Do we have a sense of purpose and direction in our lives that reflects our beliefs that there is a life after death?
In the Gospel Jesus makes it clear that the resurrected life is not merely an extension of the earthly life. The things that are of concern in this world will not be a concern in the next. Through death and resurrection life is changed not ended. Jesus confirmed this by his own resurrection from the dead.
Belief in the afterlife gives us hope. Without hope there is no future. Without any sense of a future how can we possibly know where are we going?