It is never a good idea to try to trounce God from an argument about love. God is love.
One of the struggles we encounter in the spiritual life can be labeled preconception. It consists in assuming a prefabricated opinion about Jesus Christ—about who he is and what role he plays in life. Preconception presupposes that Christ is inadequate to fulfilling my aims. I (falsely) deem Jesus to be the opposite of the pleasure, power, and prestige I crave.
Preconception makes us actually antagonistic toward the Son of God. For not only does Jesus fail to measure up to what I am looking for in life, Jesus stands as the nemesis of my sought-after happiness. He’s a scandal, an impediment, a rival. And so I say No to him, and regard him as an adversary.
The troubling thing is that the pressures of the world … fear … our sins … can prod us into preconception without our ever knowing it. A stand-out example: the Sadducees who tussle with Christ over the reality of resurrection (Lk 20:27-38). They presume they’ve come up with a watertight argument for exposing Jesus as a fraud. Their premise: Since it is impossible for the order of love integral to marriage to be restored in heaven, there is no resurrection. But please note: It is never a good idea to try to trounce God from an argument about love. God is love.
And why begin from such a nihilistic thesis? If we dare to examine our own heart, we discover something infallible in its design. When it comes to the death of our loved ones, our heart tells us that we prefer that they somehow continue to live on and that we will have the possibility of seeing them again, because, after our own death, we will also somehow live on. That preference is part and parcel of the very make-up of the human heart, hard-wiring us for hope in resurrection.
Pope Francis points out the Sadducees’ problem of perspective:
What will happen is quite the opposite of what the Sadducees expected. It is not this life that will serve as a reference point for the other life that awaits us; rather, it is eternity that illumines and gives hope to the earthly life of each one of us! If we look at things from only a human perspective, we tend to say that man’s journey moves from life to death. Jesus turns this perspective upside down and states that our pilgrimage goes from death to life: the fullness of life! Therefore death stands behind us, not before us.
“What Jesus means by ‘resurrection’ is God’s power and will to create new life against all human logic and expectation” (E. Leiva-Merikakis). The Resurrection of Jesus Christ brings into being “a new possibility of human existence” that “affects everyone and that opens up a new kind of future for mankind” (Pope Benedict XVI). We need to surrender to Resurrection.
An example of this: My brother-in-law Mark is an awesome person. He’s a man’s man … can fix anything … the guy others turn to when stumped. But on the day of his wedding, when he spotted his bride, my sister, at the back of the church, he burst into tears. Because Love beyond all preconceptions was coming into his world and down the aisle to him, opening up a new kind of future, against all worldly logic and expectation … creating new life.
So who will be the bridegroom to the woman in heaven? Jesus is the Bridegroom. He loves us with a love that exceeds all preconceptions … that pushes past our pessimism and self-assertion … that defuses our resistance … and that leaves us wanting for nothing.
When preconception besets us, we can profess with greater conviction the line from the Creed—I look forward to the resurrection of the dead—and pray with St. Gregory of Narek:
It is for the Bridegroom that I long. Despite the weight of my transgressions, I believe with an indubitable hope, trusting in the hand of the Almighty One, that I shall see him in person, thanks to his mercy and pity, and that I shall inherit heaven.