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Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: November 6, 2016
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a memorial Mass for his mother, Rachel Taylor, on her birthday at St. Mary Church in Ponca City, Okla. on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. She died April 26, 2016.
Most knowledge comes to us by comparison to something we already know. For example, rattlesnake tastes like chicken so if you've ever had chicken you know how good rattlesnake will taste.
In a similar way, the Bible uses comparisons to teach us about heaven and hell. It says hell is like fire, so if you've ever been burned, you know how bad hell will be. As for heaven, will the gates be pearly and the streets made of gold? How long will the heavenly banquet last? Forever is a long time to be eating.
That's not the point. The Bible uses these images to teach how great heaven will be — and how bad hell will be — but the images themselves are just images and Jesus is addressing precisely this difference between image and reality in today's Gospel when he tells the Sadducees that they've missed the point because they're being too literal.
No one will be possessed by anyone in the life to come. Moreover, because even the healthiest marital love on earth is of necessity exclusive — certainly that was Jesus' understanding — it is just a faint image of the unimaginably great love of heaven, which is of necessity non-exclusive.
Jesus teaches us about heaven by comparison to something we already know, but the underlying reality is as different from the image being used as chicken is from rattlesnake. The Sadducees were arguing with Jesus, saying that his teaching about the resurrection of the dead could imply polyandry — multiple husbands — in heaven.
Notice that they're not worried about polygamy, a man preceded in death by seven wives. Wives were thought of as a possession, given away in marriage — kinda like slaves — and according to their logic you could conceivably own more than one such possession at a time. For instance, like the ancient patriarch Jacob had done — even though by then that had in fact ceased to be the practice in Israel.
But to their mentality polyandry, multiple husbands owning the same woman, was different because that would have been sort of like owning time shares in the same condo, and according to the Sadducees that's why the resurrection of the dead is illogical.
Even Jesus taught that no slave can serve two masters; how much less could one woman serve seven husbands, all of whom would have had eternally irreconcilable rival claims on her as their exclusive possession. Ridiculous!
But Jesus tells them that they're the ones who are being ridiculous because they're being far too literal. No one will be possessed by anyone in the life to come. Moreover, because even the healthiest marital love on earth is of necessity exclusive — certainly that was Jesus' understanding — it is just a faint image of the unimaginably great love of heaven, which is of necessity non-exclusive.
Thus in heaven there is no marriage as we think of it and hence no polyandry or polygamy. Those seven husbands will be best buddies, not rivals.
Jesus teaches us about love in the next life by comparing it with something we already know. The love of heaven is greater than marital love at its very best because it is not exclusive, all are fully free, no one possesses anyone else, there are no conflicting claims. The love of heaven will be as different from earthly love as chicken is from rattlesnake.