Many of the things that Jesus says in today’s gospel are difficult to understand. But the last line is clear. He says, “God is not God of the dead, but of the living.” What this gospel is telling us is that God will not be found in places that are exhausted, depleted, or dead. But God can be discovered in what lives, grows, and blesses us. This is a very important insight, because you and I have a tendency to become stuck in things that are depleted and dead. We are cemented to these places because of hurt or because of our desire that our life would be different. But there is no life in those places, and God cannot be found there.
When you lose someone that you love deeply in death—a close friend, a spouse of many years—your heart is broken, and you are filled with emptiness. But there is no life in emptiness. Even though you deeply loved that person who died, you cannot hold on to what once was. This gospel tells us that God calls us out of that emptiness to what is new and life giving. You might worry deeply about someone you love who is struggling—a child, a member of your family. Their unhappiness robs you of joy. This gospel tells us that there is no life in unhappiness. God calls us to recognize the relationships in our life that are positive and life giving, because they will bless us over and over. You might be angry or discouraged about some politicians in our government today. They might be making decisions with which you disagree and which you believe will hurt our country. This gospel says there is no life in anger and discouragement. It calls us to own the parts of our government that are still functioning effectively and calls us to commit ourselves to elect politicians that we feel will more successfully serve the common good. In whatever dark, angry or hurt place we might be stuck, God has the power to call us out and give us a new beginning.
Marguerite Higgins was an award-winning journalist who was imbedded with the American troops during the Korean War. She tells this story. One night the soldiers ended their march early for dinner. They were bone tired and filled with anxiety and the fear of death. One young soldier leaned against a jeep, eating his cold dinner out of a tin can. He had been in the field for weeks. His clothes were stiff with dirt and the cold. His heavily bearded face was impacted with mud and almost without expression. Then one of his buddies asked a surprising question. He said, “Pete, if I were God and could give you whatever you wish, what would want the most?” The soldier stood motionless for a few moments, and then he said, “Just give me tomorrow.”
God is going to give us tomorrow. That is why we cannot squander it rummaging around among things that are dead. Seize what is life-giving in tomorrow. If you do so, you will experience happiness and hope, because you will have found the God of the living.