I’m sure that most of us have, at one time or another, argued with another person.
There are good ways to argue, and bad ways to argue.
The good way is when people listen carefully to each other. They genuinely listen for the strengths in each other’s point of view, and the argument becomes a mutual search for truth. Even if they still don’t agree with each other, they respect each other, and have learned from the discussion.
The bad way to argue is when people despise the other’s point of view, or indeed despise the other person. They make sarcastic and ridiculous versions of their opponent’s opinions, and the argument simply becomes an exercise in abuse.
That’s what the Sadducees were doing in the gospel we hear today. The Sadducees were part of the Jewish wealthy upper class. They were theologically conservative, which in the Jewish world at that time meant not believing in life after death. Being part of the wealthy upper class, of course they despised this wandering rabbi and healer from Galilee, this man who came from the common people, who mixed with sinners, and who preached about the love of God.
Because they despised Jesus they didn’t bother to argue with him sensibly, they put forward a ridiculous hypothesis to show that of course the teaching of life after death was not found in the Jewish law.
Jesus refuses to engage with their ridiculous hypothesis, a hypothesis which, by the way, shows absolutely no respect for the woman passed on to seven men. Jesus tells them, and us, that the life of the world to come will be fundamentally different from the life we have now. Yes, we are called to a life of joy and delight, of participation in divine life. We are called to be part of the communion of saints, to live in deep union and happiness with all others in that communion. We certainly pray that this will include those we have known and loved in this life, but we will know them in a different, fuller and far more complete way than we do here.
Marriage and family life, at their absolute best in this world, are really only a pale reflection of the communion we are called to in the life to come. In that communion our bodies are transformed , even transfigured, we are like angels, and are sons and daughters of God.
The importance of this now is that every human being in this world is called to be part of this communion. Every person we meet, not just our family members, but the person we see on the street or on a tram, the person who serves us in a shop, the politicians we abuse or support, the people in prison, the wealthy miner, the homeless addict, all are called to the communion of saints. If we could see them now as they could be in the life to come, their wonder and beauty would be such that we would be tempted to worship them. There is no such thing as an ordinary person.
Therefore we have the duty to treat all those we meet with respect, to listen to them patiently and seek to discover truth with them, even, or especially, when we disagree. We have the duty to seek their good, to help them live with dignity. In the Our Father, we pray to be forgiven, as we forgive others. The person we forgive today may be the angelic, transfigured being we meet in the life to come, as together we rejoice in the forgiveness and love given freely by God, made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.