Author: Joe Clifford
Scripture: Matthew 22:23-33
Key verse: (32) “He is God not of the dead, but of the living.”
Reflection: “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” Though the origins of this question are debated, it is likely a 16th century critique of medieval scholasticism that sought precise theological answers to increasingly absurd questions. According to Wikipedia, in 1691 William Sclater in a commentary on 1 Thessalonians claimed scholastic philosophers occupied themselves with such pointless questions as whether angels “did occupy a place; and so, whether many might be in one place at one time; and how many might sit on a needle’s point; and six hundred such like needless points.” I love the playfulness of “needle’s” and “needless.”
Today’s reading from Matthew offers an instance when the religious authorities want to trap Jesus by arguing about a needless point. They frame a question around a woman who found herself incredibly unfortunate. Six of her husbands died, and the question they posed was, “In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be?” “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” The people asking the question do not believe in resurrection, so they propose a ridiculous scenario to try to trap Jesus within the confines of their small minds. Jesus proceeds to sight God’s own pronouncement made throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Jesus then puts the matter quite simply, “He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” Drop the mike. No debate continues. They don’t engage in a question about how they live, or by what terms they are granted life. He is God not of the dead, but of the living. Put another way, he is the Living God.
I wonder how often we get caught up in questions that have no material impact on life. I wonder about the cost of focusing our attention on such questions. What leads us to do that? How does our faith in the Living God shape our lives and our living? Isn’t that what it’s really all about?
Prayer: Living God, open our eyes to your presence in our lives; then open our hearts that your presence might shape our living. Amen.