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Made Great in His Greatness

In today’s Gospel the Sadducees take on Jesus. The issue concerns the resurrection of the dead, and we are told that the Sadducees did not believe in this doctrine. Jesus refutes them by arguing that there will be a new order in the world to come, in which those who are resurrected from the dead no longer marry or die. From their position as the rich and powerful of society the Sadducees can see nothing beyond the current world order. Yet in clinging to their privileges they set a deadly limit to their ambitions. They have nowhere to go but down (literally in this case where the grave will be their resting place), and thus furiously hold onto their position, opposing those who challenge them even to the point of killing.

It is not only the rich and powerful in society who are prone to this clinging to position. Each of us faces the temptation of replacing the Kingdom Jesus promises to the children of the resurrection with our own limited ambitions; and if we do succeed in our ambitions what then? Once you reach the top the only way is down. So should we give up all ambition, content ourselves with coasting along in life? There is no doubt that giving up certain ambitions can be immensely freeing. Frustrated ambition can crush our spirits, but to completely give up on our ambitions is to succumb to a melancholy which leads towards despair.

Ambition in itself is not wrong, but it has to be exercised in humility and always with an eye to that which is the only ambition that really counts: ‘to be considered worthy of reaching that world.’ Now we are incapable of being able to do this on our own. Our lives are botched jobs, and we cannot obtain by our own merits the perfection of the children of God. But we are not to despair. In sending us His Son Jesus Christ, the Father has offered us the possibility of becoming His adopted children. The cross is not so much a botched job as an utter failure. But the failure is on our side, not on His. Out of this failure God the Father through the resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ has given us the chance to become His children, through the power of His Holy Spirit. If we place into His hands the limitation of our botched lives, and even the times of utter failure, He will transform our poor ambition so that we become His great work: the New Creation in which there will be no limit to ambition as there will no limit to how great we can become by sharing in His greatness.

Fr David Goodhill O.P.

Posted in Ordinary Time on Nov 05, 2016