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11/10/19 32nd sunday in Ordinary Time

The Sadducees were the Jewish political leaders in Palestine. They were less strict than the Pharisees, religiously speaking. They also collaborated with the Roman authorities who ruled Palestine, which made them a wealthy and influential class. Their frequent contact with pagan Roman society affected their faith - contaminating it, distorting their concept of God.

That was the reason they didn't believe in the Resurrection. They were conceiving of heaven in earthly terms. They were applying human restrictions to God. But heaven is an entirely different level of existence than earth. And God is much wiser, more powerful, and more creative than even the greatest human genius.

Jesus reminds them of this. He points out that God is transcendent - human limitations of time and space don't apply to him. Then he points out that when we get to heaven, we will share in that transcendence more fully than we do here in this fallen world.

We are very much like the Sadducees.

The world we live in is full of non-Christian influences that can contaminate our faith. Therefore, so many Catholics have in recent years become "cafeteria Catholics." They accept the Church teachings that fit into today's popular culture - like the importance of serving the poor, but they don't accept the teachings that go against it - especially the ones dealing with sexual morality.

When we pick and choose like that, we are making the same mistake the Sadducees made: we are not letting God be God.  We are cutting him down to our size.

And when we do that, we miss out on the greater things that God wants to give us, the only things that can fulfill the deepest yearnings of our hearts.

A clever comic strip is circulating through the Internet these days. It shows a group of Christians walking in the same direction along a barren plateau on their way to heaven. They all carry large wooden crosses, like the cross Jesus carried. They are all bowed down under the weight. It looks very uncomfortable. One of them stops, lays down his cross, and turns to God in prayer. "Lord," he says, "I want to follow you, but this cross is just too heavy. Can you please lighten it?" Hearing no answer, he pulls out a saw and cuts down the long end of the cross by about a foot. He continues along carrying his self-customized cross, but it is still uncomfortable, so he stops once again to pray. "Lord, you know that I love you, but I am just not strong enough to carry this cross. It's too big for me!" Then he gets out his saw again and cuts off another two feet. Smiling, he continues his journey.

Suddenly, he comes to a huge chasm.  A deep abyss separates the plateau he is on from the one on the other side, where the road to heaven continues. He doesn't know how to cross the chasm, so he looks around to see what everyone else is doing. He sees that they are laying down their crosses to cover the abyss, like little bridges, and walking along them to the other side. So, he lays down his cross to do the same thing. To his horror, he discovers that his cross doesn't reach; it's three feet too short.

By cutting God down to his size, he had cut himself off from God - just like the Sadducees.

One reason many of our fellow Catholics aren't with us at Mass today is because they have fallen into the Sadducees' trap; they have cut God down to their size. As a result, they are content to think their relationship with God is doing just fine, if they don't become an axe murderer or suicide bomber. They are perfectly content to pick and choose from the buffet of Catholic teachings, making no commitment to Christ, but enjoying a few morsels of his wisdom here and there. They have forgotten that they are part of a much bigger story, and that God has much more that he wants to give them - eternal life, in fact.

How can we help them?

First, we should pray for them. It should matter to us that this church is usually three times fuller on Christmas Eve than it is today, because that means that some of our brothers and sisters have been seduced by this anti-Christian world and have put their friendship with Christ into second place. We should pray for God to bring them back home.

Second, we should understand better and better the Church's teachings - especially those that popular culture rejects.

The better we understand them, the better we will be able to help others understand them, and this, maybe, will stir them from their Sadducee-ish slumber.

Finally, we can invite them. Maybe invite them to Sunday Mass, or to another parish activity. The start of Advent - just a couple weeks away - is a great time to issue an invitation.

Our neighbors will stop cutting God down to a comfortable size if we can help them see the full measure of his wisdom and love.

Today, let's promise Christ that we will try.

 

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